Eels building finals charge on 'brick-wall' defence

They may have taken to blasting their opponents off the park in recent weeks but Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson says it is his side’s brick-wall defence that has been behind their stunning form reversal.<br><br>Only four weeks ago the Eels sat in 14th spot on the NRL ladder, five points out of the eight and with a shocking points differential of -129 (behind only the Sydney Roosters).<br><br>But four consecutive wins in which they have posted 115 points while conceding just 32 has them well and truly back in finals contention having clawed their way to within one point of the top eight.<br><br>“We’ve conceded 32 points in our last four games – that’s remarkable given where we were for the first six or eight weeks of the competition,” Anderson told NRL.com in the wake of Parramatta’s 40-8 dismantling of Newcastle.<br><br>“Our defence has been very, very good.<br><br>“Everyone knows defence is attitude but there are some technical components too and some system components.<br><br>“The boys have been working very hard in those areas.<br><br>“We’ve evolved as the season has gone on but I’m particularly happy that some of our players have fought some adversity this year and come back.”<br><br>Key to the Eels’ defensive transformation has been the return to form of utility Ben Smith and centre Krisnan Inu after both were dumped to NSW Cup feeder side Wentworthville earlier in the season.<br><br>Inu in particular has struggled to find his feet for the best part of 18 months but his resurrection has been built around some brutal hits out wide.<br><br>“Krisnan was down on confidence and down on attitude too,” Anderson said. “He is playing with a swagger now because he has found a space or a routine that suits him.<br><br>“But he is building from his defensive play rather than his attack.<br><br>“You look at Krisnan and Ben as well as guys like Broderick Wright and Kevin Kingston – these are the boys that have had to fight and scrap even to get in the team but they’ve made the most of their opportunities defensively as much as with their attack.”<br><br>Anderson reserved special praise for halfback Jeff Robson. The 27-year-old may still have trouble talking his way past the Parramatta Stadium parking attendant but is just as diligent in defending his own turf when wearing Eels colours.<br><br>“He has been outstanding – he just doesn’t miss tackles,” Anderson said. “It’s such an asset to the team to have a halfback that is such an outstanding defender.<br><br>“That in itself builds confidence to the players around him.<br><br>“But for all of the boys it has taken a lot of work by the coaching staff and a lot of self-evaluation by the players.<br><br>“A few weeks ago Joel (Reddy) and Eric (Grothe) had a really rough day at the office against the Panthers (on Parramatta’s right side) and they followed that up with an indifferent game against the Titans on the edge, but there was an evaluation, a chat and a resolve to improve it.<br><br>“That has been the case across the board.”<br><br>It seems remarkable that amid the Eels’ early season woes, they became the first team to slump to a triple-figure negative points differential this year following their 34-10 loss to Manly in Round 10.<br><br>But big wins over the Bulldogs, Cronulla and Newcastle – including a full 136 minutes without conceding a point – have the Eels back in finals contention and Anderson keeping one eye on his side’s ever-improving for and against (which now stands at -46).<br><br>“I really value the differential as a guide to how you’re going and how much effort you put in… how successful you are at the subtleties of the game.<br><br>“We cracked the 100 negatively pretty early on in the year and we remained pretty constant for three months but the last four weeks we’ve started to chip into it a little bit.”<br><br>The Eels are awaiting the results of an MRI scan this afternoon on a calf injury to captain Nathan Cayless but are confident he won’t require a lengthy stint on the sidelines. <br>