Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne says his side isn't far from producing its best football, despite being outclassed by St George-Illawarra in the first half of their round one clash on Friday night.
The Dragons dominated the first 30 minutes at Parramatta Stadium, scoring two converted tries for a 12-0 lead before the Eels found their groove.
While the Eels battled manfully in the second half, the Dragons' ability to retain possession and their cleaner ball handling ensured they kept the home side at arm's length to record an 18-12 win.
St George-Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett said after the game that his side had deliberately kept the ball away from the Eels backs to reduce their effectiveness, but Hayne told BigPond Sports Weekend that Parramatta had been its own worst enemy.
"I think we restricted ourselves, certainly with our kicking game. It just wasn't up to scratch and I think that comes with a round one game," he said.
"You [need time] to start getting into the rhythm of things and we just couldn't find our rhythm [on Friday night].
"There were some promising signs and I think we were just lucky to be in it at the end, really."
BPSW rugby league expert Brad Fittler concurred with Hayne's assessment, but paid tribute to the hard work of the Eels' forwards.
"They should have put them away earlier but Parramatta's defence on the line was fantastic," Fittler said.
Hayne agreed: "Our forwards deserve full credit. They were unbelievable.
"Obviously myself and the halves probably let them down in that aspect of not putting points on the board and not getting into good field position."
Both Hayne and Daniel Mortimer committed crucial errors with the boot during the game but the reigning Dally M medallist said the Eels' profligate field kicking had nothing to do with the number of players entrusted with kicking the ball, and everything to do with early-season rustiness.
"I don't think there's too many kickers. I think it's a good thing to keep their full back and their wingers alert," he said.
"It just got away from us... there was a time when I tried to push a kick to the sideline and it went out on the full.
"It's nothing that we don't know how to fix and I think that's the pleasing thing. Our defence is great... and we've got a couple of attacking weapons in our side so it shouldn't be hard to click."