By HAMISH NEAL
GREG Inglis has only played fullback for three months but if his elbow holds up, he could well don the Queensland number 1 jersey for next month’s State of Origin decider. After another splendid effort as custodian, Inglis inspired South Sydney into fourth on the NRL ladder after defeating Parramatta at ANZ Stadium.
The likely absence of Billy Slater due to a PCL knee injury for the Suncorp Stadium match on July 4 has opened up the chance for Inglis to fill the void. However, his first-half injury from the Saturday night fixture could prove troublesome.
Concern for the Souths fullback came in the 22nd minute when Inglis appeared to hyperextend his arm in attempting a tackle on Jarryd Hayne. It was diagnosed by club doctor Andrew McDonald as a medial ligament strain, according to Fox Sports NRL sideline analyst Adam MacDougall, and Inglis played on after getting some tapping to support the injury.
“He’s okay<‘ said Souths coach Michael Maguire. “He just got it bent a little bit the wrong way.”
Souths officials said even if the injury was severe they wouldn’t know the extent of it until any further scans are taken. Maguire said the problem did restrict Inglis.
“He contributed a hell of a lot throughout that game even though he had that little elbow problem,” the coach continued. “They (club medical staff) taped it up so he couldn’t move his arm. So he was playing with one arm there at one stage.”
Of the prospects of a shift at Origin level to fullback, Maguire thinks Inglis would not be out of place. “I’m sure Billy will do everything possible to make sure he is there. I’m sure Greg would do a great job if he’s put back there. He has shown that for us. Greg has played five-eighth, fullback, he plays in the centres so wherever you put him he is going to do a good job.”
Maguire commented about the victory: “Definitely over the last couple of years this team has shown they can score points. It’s obviously about been able to work together in defence is the difference I see and the boys spoke about that through the week and they delivered thattonight.”
Evidence of the Rabbitohs’ defensive effort was the missed tackle count of 26-10 in their favour – a good effort considering the slippery conditions.
Continuing to search for answers with only two wins on the board and his job under fire, Eels coach Stephen Kearney noted: “we certainly got taught a lesson tonight in playing wet weather footy. I thought South Sydney were extremely good in that department. I think they didn’t make an error in the first half, 20 from 20 sets which in these conditions was a real good effort.
“I must say I was pretty pleased with the lads defensive effort there was just a couple of soft-ish tries… I thought certainly through the middle of the field the lads worked really hard but again we just couldn’t crack it. When we had the footy, the limited time we did have it up in good ball, I didn’t think we were composed enough there, which cost us.”
Kearney identified the play of the two sets of halves as the difference between the two sides. “In reverse I thought their halves played with alot of composure and when they got up into good ball they made us really pay for it. For the most part we did a fairly good job to be hanging in there, to be fair.”
Try-scoring machine Nathan Merritt notched up his 126th career try when he opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Merritt nabbed a clever chip from half-back Adam Reynolds to score in the right corner. Sharp-shooter Reynolds nailed the near-sideline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The field position for the try was set-up by a penalty two minutes earlier when Eels back-rower Reni Maitua was penalised for a dangerous tackle on Inglis. The incident wasn’t placed on report but it could be an anxious wait for Maitua come Monday.
In final fifteen minutes of the half Parramatta had chances to test Inglis but didn’t take them, including an initial chance soon after the injury. Well on attack, the Eels elected not kick the ball towards the Bowraville junior and they were caught on the sixth tackle, forcing a turnover without a repeat set to attack.
The Eels defence was on over-time after was Maitua again penalised ten minutes from the break. On this occasion he was ruled to have taken out Inglis who was trying to attack a kick put up by Souths halfback Reynolds.
In the following set, despite the attention of two Parramatta defenders, Inglis was able to create the room for Hunt to plant the ball down in the left-hand corner for a four pointer. After review from video referee Pat Reynolds the Redfern-based outfit had their second try for the night and a 12-0 lead.
Hunt, who was originally omitted from the match-day 17 but returned after Shaune Corrigan sustained an injury in the warm-up, scored his third try of the season.
Souths opened the second half scoring in the second minute when Inglis once again featured prominently. The Queensland centre exposed the defensive frailties of the Eels $550,000 signing Sandow when he drew the half-back allowing room for Dylan Farrell to score. Another touch-line conversion from Reynolds saw the lead extend to 18-0.
After his first half indiscretions Maitua partially made upfor it scoring in the 58th minute to get Parramatta on the board at 18-6.
Souths appeared to be denied a clear try in the 65th minute when a bomb from Souths wasn’t caught be any Eels defenders. Souths centre Andrew Everingham eventually ended up with the ball before finding Luke Burgess who appeared to have a maiden NRL try. However video referee Reynolds adjudged Dave Taylor had impeded Sandow in his attempts to make a play at the ball.
Sandow had a chance to get something out of his first match against his old club when he intercepted a pass from Inglis. With Souths well on attack the pass intended for Farrell was snatched by Sandow who nearly ran the further 90 metres to the goal-line but was bundled into touch just shy of the try-line by fellow half-back Reynolds. Maguire said afterwards the play was “inspirational… He (Reynolds) put his head down and took off and that’s the sort of kid he is.”
The match was sealed in the 76th minute when Eels right-side defence, and more specifically Sandow, was left lamenting when a quick play the ball from Souths saw hooker Issac Luke find Michael Crocker with a short-ball. Crocker aimed his run towards Sandow, who hadn’t found his position quickly enough as marker, and scored with ease.
After praising the opposing halves of John Sutton and livewire Reynolds Kearney said of his own halves pairing of Sandow and Ben Roberts “I thought the halves did a fairly good job two weeks ago against the Sharks,” the coach said. “I thought tonight wasn’t a great performance by both of them”
Not just speaking about just the halves Kearney went on to say “I thought we took a bit of a backward step tonight.”
SOUTH SYDNEY 24 (M Crocker D Farrell J Hunt N Merritt tries A Reynolds 4 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 6(R Maitua try L Burt goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: A Shortall/B Suttor. Crowd: 14,212.