The Eels are through to their first grand final since 2009 after hanging on in a 24-20 thriller against the Cowboys.
While skipper Clint Gutherson was pivotal, it wasn’t the Eels’ spine that delivered the win. In fact Dylan Brown had one of his quieter games and Mitchell Moses will want to put that performance behind him.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard bagged a double, Shaun Lane produced a second half for the ages and Isaiah Papali’i was everywhere.
Read on for foxsports.com.au’s Eels player ratings.
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1. CLINT GUTHERSON 8
Was incredibly safe, as per usual as he scooped up a Chad Townsend grubber and took a bomb that was aimed for Waqa Blake. He couldn’t stop Reuben Cotter close to the line but made up for it with an incredible try-saver on Jeremiah Nanai.
2. MAIKA SIVO 7.5
Wasn’t his usual barnstorming self but came up with two big plays — scoring the matchwinner a try-saving tackle on Kyle Feldt.
3. WILL PENISINI 7
Scored the first try of the night but wasn’t his most dominant performance and will want to get more involved next week.
19. BAILEY SIMONSSON 7.5
Was called in to replace the injured Tom Opacic in what was his first NRL game since Round 19 and made the most of his opportunity. Was solid in defence and went looking for the ball, finishing with 101 running metres off 15 runs.
5. BLAKE HOUR 6.5
Seemed to be still spooked by the high ball and knocked on a Chad Townsend bomb. But did come up with a potential try-saving tackle on Valentine Holmes and took Murray Taulagi over the sidelined. Finished with 62 running metres off nine runs — the least of the back five.
6. DYLAN BROWN 7
Had a quiet night by his standards in attack but was almost flawless in defence, finishing with 29 tackles and just one miss.
7. MITCHELL MOSES 6.5
The chief playmaker had an off night, kicking the ball out on the full twice and hooking a penalty goal while the Eels trailed by two points in the final 20 minutes. He did have some nice touches though, including one that put Isaiah Papali’i through a gap and put his body on the line to tackle the big boys. Moses gets an honourable mention for missing the birth of his first child to don the No.7 jersey for the Eels.
8. REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD 8.5
A comprehensive performance from the star prop that included two tries, 130 running metres, two linebreaks, a linebreak assist, five tackle busts and an offload, as well as 26 tackles with just two misses.
9. REED MAHONEY 7
A mixed bag for the workhorse hooker in his 100th NRL game. Threw a forward pass out of dummy half, which turned the ball over on the 50-metre line. But he set up Campbell-Gillard and also dived on a Chad Townsend grubber to clean-up a potential try. Finished with a mammoth 55 tackles, but seven misses.
10. JUNIOR PAULO 7.5
Wasn’t the star of the show but still got through a mountain of work with 130 running metres, two offloads and 24 tackles with four misses. He will need to keep his tackling technique in check though next week after being penalised for a dangerous throw late in the game.
11. SHAUN LANE 9
A little quiet in the first half although he did miss 15 minutes due to a H.I.A, but came alive to produce one of the all-time great second halves. Lane got the ball away to Maika Sivo for a crucial Eels try and came up with a one-on-one tackle on Jordan McLean late in the game. Whether it was an offload or a tackle bust, Lane threatened basically every time he touched the ball and proved to be the difference.
12. ISAIAH PAPALI'I 8.5
The other half of the Eels’ in-form second-rowers held up his end of the deal too — despite missing 15 minutes of action due to a H.I.A. Papali’i set up Penisini for the Eels’ first try… even if the pass from the Moses in the lead-up was forward. He sent Campbell-Gillard through a gap and later shot through a gap himself only to butcher a sure try with his poor pass going to the ground. Topped the team for run metres with 138, while also making 31 tackles with three misses. Was penalised for a strip but it arguably saved a Cowboys try and in hindsight was arguably a smart play.
17. MARATA NIUKORE 7
Wasn’t his best performance. Had an early error and missed a tackle on Reuben Cotter but it was his only miss for the night. Made 28 tackles but left a little in the tank in attack.
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13. RYAN MATTERSON 8.5
Came on earlier than expected to replace Papali’i and left his mark instantly, setting up Campbell-Gillard with a classy ball. Notched up 122 running metres, two tackle busts and three offloads while also making 38 tackles with just one miss.
14. BRYCE CARTWRIGHT 5.5
Given he only spent 14 minutes on the field, Cartwright didn’t get much of an opportunity. Took three runs and made 15 tackles with no misses.
15. JAKE ARTHUR N/A
Didn’t get on the field.
16. OREGON KAUFUSI 6
Only took a few runs but was rock solid in defence, making 20 tackles — including an important one on Luciano Leilua — with just one miss.