The Rabbitohs steadied the ship but Brad Fittler is in troubled waters after four Blues hopefuls were placed on report in South Sydney’s 38-20 win over the Eels on Saturday night.
In his first game back from injury, Cameron Murray was electric through the middle but was put on report for a crusher tackle on Blake Ferguson, with any charge set to see him miss the State of Origin opener due to the 200-point base penalty.
Fellow middle forward Nathan Brown is in trouble for two separate incidents involving Keaon Koloamatangi and Cody Walker, with the latter facing a ban of his own for a high shot on Jakob Arthur that won’t be helped by his poor record this season.
Ryan Matterson’s hopes of making his NSW debut are in jeopardy after he was sent to the sin bin for a high shot on Tevita Tatola, while Reed Mahoney’s quest to claim the Queensland No. 9 jersey is in doubt after he found himself on report for dangerous contact on Koloamatangi.
Fittler will be desperate for some good news when the charge sheet comes out given the Blues are already without forwards Boyd Cordner, Victor Radley and Angus Crichton, while Payne Haas is racing the clock to overcome a knee injury.
Edge of concern
Brad Arthur switched Waqa Blake and Tom Opacic to shore up Parramatta’s leaky right-edge but the experiment did not work as South Sydney showed why their left side is the best attacking unit in the competition.
After conceding 50 points for the second time in three weeks, the Bunnies rediscovered their mojo in attack as Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Dane Gagai and Alex Johnston ran riot in indigenous Round.
Johnston and Gagai both bagged hat-tricks, while Walker and Latrell combined for four try assists as Parramatta’s biggest flaw was exposed for the second week in a row.
While the centres may have changed, Ferguson has been the constant on the right, and his poor decision-making in defence should be a massive red flag for Fittler who is reportedly considering handing the veteran winger an Origin recall.
Cook dishes it out
There was one piece of good news for the Blues as Damien Cook responded to a week of criticism to all but secure the No. 9 jersey for the June 9 series opener.
People had questioned whether he should retain the hooking role after he failed to register a single running metre in last week’s heavy loss to the Panthers, but it took him barely a minute to silence the critics when he picked up the ball from the base of the scrum, dummied to his outside and went straight through to open the scoring.
Eels slip up again
They remain comfortably entrenched inside the top four, but Parramatta’s strong start to the year threatens to become a distant memory following their second loss in the space of six days.
While the Panthers and Storm are leagues ahead of the other 14 teams, the Eels and Rabbitohs represented the best of the rest. Now, it looks like the blue and golds may be a rung below the Bunnies and even the Sea Eagles.
Jakob Arthur provided some highlights with a try and an assist, but he was a rare shining light as their fragile edges were picked apart with worrying ease.