NRL Rd 5 - Eels v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Blake Ferguson and Ryan Matterson of the Eels celebrate Ryan Matterson scoring a try during the round five NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Penrith Panthers at Bankwest Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Actual Finish: 3rd

The Eels finished exactly where I expected. They were just outside the true elite of the competition but more than good enough to finish in the top four. They entered the season with heavy expectations and I'd say they delivered.


1. Highlights

- Defensive Steel: With all due respect to recent Eels outfits, I'm not sure they've exactly been thought of as defensive specialists. In 2020 they largely bossed opposition attacks, conceding on 288 points across 20 regular season games at just over 14 per game. Even when their attack stuttered, they were able to get home on the back of their stingy defence. They beat opposition forward packs down in the middle and their wide men held their positions and rarely folded. They say Premierships are built on defence. Only the Storm and Panthers, the Grand Finalists, conceded less.

- Powerful start to the season: The Eels ended 2019 in horror fashion, yet started 2020 like a locomotive, winning their first five games. Those wins included a 46-6 win over the Titans, a 34-6 win over the Broncos and then wins over the Eagles and Panthers. That was the only loss in the regular season that the Panthers would endure. For the record they also beat the Dogs in round one. They would end up winning eight of their opening ten games, which hugely set them up for a return to the top four.

- Metre Eaters: The Eels were extremely hard to contain in 2020. They ran for the third most amount of metres across the competition and the second most post contact metres. They also lead the offload count, by a long way with 303. The next closest was 229 by the Roosters. Junior Paulo was the comp's leading off loader whilst also featuring in the top 15 metre eaters alongside fellow Eels RCG and Clint Gutherson. Fair to say they had little trouble winning the battle metre-wise more often than not.

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