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Eels finally find NRL backline answer

NZN 18/06/2017 Scott Bailey

Brad Arthur finally found his perfect NRL backline combination on Sunday, but he's still not ready to settle with it just yet.

With Clinton Gutherson at fullback and Bevan French shifted to the right wing, the Eels' attack fired to a 24-10 win over St George Illawarra at ANZ Stadium.

Gutherson crossed twice in the first 25 minutes to blow the Dragons out of the water, including one from an 80-metre break after he trapped a St George Illawarra grubber and picked it up to run away and score.

French scored the match-sealer in the second half and was outstanding in defence.

"He had the choice to sulk about (the move), and he didn't" Arthur said.

"That's the sort of kid he is."

French regularly pressured the Dragons' attack with his speed and produced an intercept to save a try in his new-found position.

"Bevan nailed a couple of big moments for us tonight," Arthur said.

"They put him under pressure and maybe he was the difference in the game for us."

Arthur also made the call to move Michael Jennings from left to right centre on his return from a quad injury, in a bid to strengthen up the defence on halfback Mitchell Moses' side.

But the Eels coach said it had been a season-long issue for the Eels on that edge.

"Before Mitchell got here, if any edge was getting points put on them it was that right edge," Arthur said.

"Jenko is one of the best defensive centres in the game, and it's an area we've struggled in a bit."

Again, it worked, as Jennings scored once via a 55-metre break and the Dragons failed to score on that edge of the field.

However, despite all that, Arthur suggested they may not keep the same structure when backs Josh Hoffman and Kirisome Auva'a return from injury and are available in a fortnight's time, after the bye.

"In my view I think Bevan's best position moving forward is fullback," Arthur said.

"But he's still only young, still learning his trade and at the end of the day we just need to put the best possible team out there every week to try and win a football game.

"Gutho is just a footballer. I don't know where his best position is.

"We just need to put him on the field somewhere."

The win is likely to have come at a big cost, with Eels hooker Kaysa Pritchard taken to hospital in an ambulance with a serious knee injury, while back-rower Beau Scott suffered an elbow complaint.

Nene Macdonald and Paul Vaughan scored tries for the Dragons, but they never looked in the hunt as their attack stuttered without Origin stars Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell.

The result sunk the Saints to sixth on the ladder, and was their fifth defeat in seven games since they were first after round seven.

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