Clint Gutherson enhanced his status as one of the standout players of the 2017 NRL premiership with a stellar showing from fullback in Parramatta’s 24-10 win over St George Illawarra on Sunday.
The 22-year-old played centre last week, but Eels coach Brad Arthur bit the bullet and moved his in-form utility-back into the No.1 jumper, with Bevan French bumped to the wing, in the wake of last week’s heavy loss to the Cowboys.
The reshuffle immediately paid dividends as Gutherson scored the first two tries of the match inside 25 mintues – the second a brilliant 80-metre runaway effort after blocking a kick ahead from Dragons winger Kalifa Faifai Loa.
— Parramatta Eels (@TheParraEels) June 18, 2017
The Saints’ fullback stand-in, Jason Nightingale, pegged one back by producing a brilliant flick for Nene MacDonald to score before halftime, but returning centre Michael Jennings put the Eels firmly in the driver’s seat just after the break when he sprinted 50 metres from a Joel Thompson error.
French – who had a superb afternoon on the flank on both sides of the ball – latched onto an audacious Mitchell Moses kick to effectively clinch the result with 24 minutes to go, despite Paul Vaughan’s determined 63rd-minute effort for the Dragons.
Man of the match Gutherson finished the day with a game-high 214 running metres – and another swag of new fans as he develops into one of the competition’s most popular players.
The blue-and-golds’ bounce-back win was soured somewhat by what looked to be a serious knee injury to hooker Kaysa Pritchard. The Dragons were left to lament their second straight 14-point loss, with this defeat following on from their dismal showing against the Bulldogs on Monday.
The result saw Parramatta maintain a share of eighth spot with Penrith, while St George Illawarra dropped to equal-sixth alongside North Queensland.
There’s a mere four-point spread between sixth and 12th – the aforementioned quartet of clubs and the equal-10th trio of Canberra, New Zealand and Canterbury – as the race for the finals heats up with just 11 rounds remaining.