Hayne plays fullback in Eels NRL trial win

By Matt Encarnacion, Matt Encarnacion is a Roar Guru

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    Parramatta may leave the door open for Jarryd Hayne to regain his beloved No.1 jumper after affording him a surprise stint at fullback in their NRL trial rout of Newcastle.

    Making his highly-anticipated return to the Eels, 1267 days after leaving for the NFL, Hayne had only a handful of touches playing at right centre in Saturday’s first half.

    But he started at the back in the second period and set up Bevan French’s second try with a neat long ball before bowing out on the hour mark.

    The assist kickstarted an avalanche of points for the premiership contenders, with Josh Hoffman, Kirisome Auva’a, Mitchell Moses and Michael Jennings also crossing in the 26-6 win.

    While all eyes were on Hayne on a sticky night in Maitland, halves Moses and Corey Norman showed enough to suggest they’re in for a strong season by combining to play a hand in all six of the Eels’ tries.

    The highlight was Norman’s 31st-minute no-look cut-out pass for Auva’a a minute or two before French nabbed his first try in which he powered over a backtracking Knights defence.

    Despite the allure of Hayne’s cameo developing into something more permanent, it’s probable an electric French will start the season as custodian.

    The visitor’s only downside was a poor night kicking for goal, with Moses converting just one from five and Norman missing his lone attempt.

    The Knights started brightly and scored first when Shaun Kenny-Dowall received a slick cut-out pass from Connor Watson in the fifth minute.

    But despite coach Nathan Brown playing most of his starters for what was a willing contest, there was little else the sellout crowd of 6526 had to celebrate.

    Key recruits Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga were solid but had few opportunities to press for points as they were forced to play most of their football at their own end.

    Hayne declined to talk to media post-match while Eels coach Brad Arthur dismissed his stint at fullback as necessary to improve his match fitness ahead of their season-opener against Penrith on March 11.

    “We were a bit light on with some outside backs and just had to move them all around and make sure that no one played too much footy,” he said.

    “And it just worked for him that we keep him moving at halftime and get him straight out there so he doesn’t seize up.”

    Brown admitted his side were dealt a harsh reality before they begin their campaign proper against Manly.

    “Did I expect us to do a little better? I did expect us to do better. I’d be very surprised if the players didn’t expect ourselves to do better,” he said.

    “On the other hand, Parramatta are a very good side so it was good to play a side who are expected to be up in that top part of the comp. They give us some good lessons.

    “So anyone that may have been getting ahead of where we’re at, will soon come back down to earth a bit quick.”

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • Roar Rookie

      February 25th 2018 @ 12:34pm
      Slickeel said | February 25th 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

      I believe JH will have a go this year and surprise a few people out there. As for Parra, nothing short of a top 4 will be expected from all parra fans. This could be our year?

    • Roar Rookie

      February 26th 2018 @ 6:40am
      Hard Yards said | February 26th 2018 @ 6:40am | ! Report

      Although I don’t read too much into pre-season games – Manly and the Roosters as an example where both sides had a bit a bit of a training run, but gee they both look strong – however the Knights still look as if they’re in for a long season. Nathan Brown needs wins or he could find himself operating a Jim’s Mowing franchise – in the middle of Winter.

    • February 27th 2018 @ 12:31pm
      Chris Love said | February 27th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      I think J Hayne at the back is as much to give French time at wing for when Gutherson returns as anything. Parramatta really has some depth this year. To have possibly Takairangi, Hoffman and Auva’a not in the starting 17 at some point says how strong this side is.

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