Anthony Siebold has laid out what he believes is a path to victory for Parramatta over Penrith and it involves kicking early and often in order to isolate Dylan Edwards, while subsequently putting their back five under pressure coming out of yardage.
“You’re trying to suffocate Penrith,” Siebold said on SEN’s Mornings with Matt White.
Siebold believes that by kicking early in the set, the Eels can turn around the Panthers and try to win the first tackle against the likes of Edwards, Brian To’o and Charlie Staines.
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“What you can do is isolate Edwards in the back field and win that first tackle,” Siebold said.
“Then, you can really be aggressive on tackles two and three. If you do that, generally speaking, coaches will talk about how if you win the first three tackles you win the set.”
Yet this will be easier said than done, with the Panthers No.1 tracking as the best in the league for kick return metres and currently in career-best form.
In any case, to even contemplate turning over the ball early and trying to attack with their defence, Parramatta’s discipline will need to be exemplary.
According to Fox Sports Lab, it is actually one of their strong points as a team, having conceded the second fewest number of penalties in the competition. They will need to maintain this record, while trying to pin the Panthers down their own end.
However, the Eels rank as the worst team in the league for conceding metres. They have allowed their opponents to make a grand total of 37,773m against them.
This will be an issue in the battle for territory with the Panthers the best team for restricting the metres of the opposition, having conceded just 32,092m this campaign.
The Eels also produce plenty of errors, with the Rabbitohs and the Sharks the only two teams to have recorded more than them.
This nearly cost Parramatta in their prelim against North Queensland, as they were unable to control possession in the first half.
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As usual, Mitch Moses’ kicking game will be vital when it comes to getting the Eels on the front foot or out of trouble after a mediocre set.
The halfback has recorded more kicks than any other player, while the 10,523m he has gained from the boot is also more than anyone else.
Clearly, Moses is the ideal man to generate this ‘kick early’ game plan to try and break the Panthers.
“Get Moses or Reed Mahoney kicking early out of dummy-half on tackle three or tackle four,” Siebold said.
“What you’ll see there is To’o and Staines up connected on the end of the line, so Edwards will be in the back field covering a lot of territory.”
Siebold highlighted how To’o has a short-coming in his game that can also be exploited with this tactic of kicking early in sets.
“To’o won’t be there,” the former Brisbane coach insisted.
“He doesn’t like to get out of dummy-half. What he likes is what we call a plus one carry.
“So, somebody else gets to dummy-half – often it’s Jarome Luai or Nathan Cleary – they’ll get there after Edwards has been tackled and they’re passing the ball to To’o.
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“Then he gets to charge into the defence. So, if you’re kicking on early tackles, it means there’s no one there to get to dummy-half. To’o will have to get there.
“If you want to tackle him, get him out of dummy-half because his carry is nowhere near as effective when he has to pick the ball up and run as he’s got no momentum.
“You want to kick on early tackles, put them in uncomfortable positions on the field and put To’o in an uncomfortable position where he has to actually get to dummy-half and run from there, rather than getting it on a plus one carry.”
To’o hasn’t made a single run out of dummy-half in 2022, which illustrates his preference of getting fed the ball out of yardage. Meanwhile, he has made 216 one-pass hit-ups so far this year which is more than any of his other teammates.
The winger is behind only Edwards for Panthers players who have made more carries exceeding eight metres. So, it is imperative for the Eels to stop To’o by playing away from his obvious strengths.
He has made just 19 general play passes all season, so Parramatta can be confident that when he is in possession of the ball, his sole intention is to run it.
The reward for limiting the yardage of Edwards and To’o, will be there will be minimal momentum for the Panthers forwards to play off the back of, while they’ll be forced to take tough carries from tackle three or four onwards.
“You need to get them working hard off the ball,” Siebold said of Penrith’s forward pack.
“So, you’re trying to take out James Fisher-Harris and [Moses] Leota- those sorts of players.
“Making them work hard means they are, I suppose, a little bit diminished in regard to what they can do on the other side of the ball.”
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A way to get them constantly in motion is to engage them in defence, with Parramatta prioritising the offload.
“Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson and Shaun Lane- they have the ability to offload when there are defenders on them,” Siebold said.
“So, instead of six tackles in a set, it’s actually eight or nine tackles in a set, if they get one or two offloads away.
“Once you’ve offloaded the ball, what you want to do is try and find two passes to move the defensive line. Think about the work off the ball that the defending team will have to do.”
The Eels are renowned for their ability to offload and implement it within their game plan. Unsurprisingly, they have registered more offloads than any other side this year with 373, so certainly have the players to carry this off.
“The tactic around offloads- some coaches would call it ‘chaos’. You keep it alive with offloads and shifts,” Siebold said.
“Fatigue can play a role. They are a very fit side, Penrith. They work really hard off the ball.
“Their effort areas, areas that don’t require skill and talent, they are very good at which is why you need to try and suffocate them.”
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