Defence still key for highlight-reel Eels: Arthur
We could use an endless list of superlatives to describe Jarryd Hayne's jaw-dropping solo effort on Monday night. And we could join the chorus that have waxed lyrical about Chris Sandow's sudden rebirth, too.
But on Monday night, after a couple of breathtaking efforts that ensured the highlight reels were kept spinning during Parramatta's 42-24 win over the Sharks, coach Brad Arthur was having none of it.
"Our defence to me wasn't good enough and moving forward, if we want to be taken seriously, we've got to improve our defence," Arthur threw first up post-game.
"At times we were a bit ordinary through the middle. We done some good things with the ball, but we've got to learn that we've got to play for 80 minutes."
Still enamoured by a piece of Hayne brilliance that rivalled Greg Inglis's 80-metre special a fortnight ago, we offered Arthur another chance to sing the praises of an attack more in tune than a Fijian rugby league team pre-game.
His team did, after all, tally 42 points. For the first time in a long time, this current Eels mob's got a fair few points in them. Don't you think, Brad?
"There is, but we need to have a mentality that we've got to stop the points and not rely on [this] 'we'll-score-more-than-you mindset'," he said.
"We just need to commit to our defence a little bit better. I thought the first half our defence was good actually. They scored off a kick, a lucky one. And on their first try we come outside of our principles and our structure in defence. But in terms of our contact, I was happy with it."
But the try, Brad. Jarryd's try. It was absolutely stunning, in a freakish kind of way, yeah?
"I was happy with his effort and he showed a lot of leadership qualities tonight," he chuffed.
"His shoulder's not 100 per cent but it was close enough to being good enough. He got the footy and ran and that's what we need him to do."
All right, we give up. Because while we were busy using adjectives for Hayne like scintillating, amazing or even – dare we say it – 2009-like, the only word this stubborn Arthur was interested in was 'tough'.
As in, the 'he-played-through-injury' kind of tough. The kind that hasn't always been used in the same sentence as this walking showreel.
"I think tonight's effort was because of... he played through an injury," Arthur said.
"And he played tough. At times, when the rest of us were looking around at the scoreboard, he wasn't. He wanted to keep playing."
And we wanted more. So we moved onto the familiar smile we recognised on the little bloke wearing the No. 7. The one who popped up with the trademark chip kick for himself in the first half to score, and the 40-20 that set up another try just minutes after it. The one who was daring us media-folk to print a photo of his trimmed-down figure post-game.
It was the kind of stuff that would probably make the bloke named after the Peter Sterling grandstand rise to his feet and applaud.
But not Arthur, he was banging on about something else.
"Defensively I thought he was great tonight. He put his body on the line, come up with a couple of good plays for us - one in particular in the first half where he force an error," he said of Sandow's performance.
"But even though in the last couples of weeks, he's been one that stood up in the second half and put us in position to get us back in the game, or give us field position and we just probably didn't support him those weeks. But yeah, he's getting better."
Really, we shouldn't be surprised. The former Manly assistant has been harping on about how his team should play when it doesn't have the ball since they walloped the Warriors in Round 1. And then again when they were towelled up by the Roosters in Round 2. And again when they defended for 79 minutes at Brookvale in Round 3.
We're almost two-and-a-half months in now, and you get the feeling that the message is finally starting to get through. And, looking back, it might've begun with that tough fullback who also happened to score a good try on Monday night, bung shoulder and all.
Co-captain Tim Mannah sums it up best: "It's all good to do the tries and fancy stuff that everyone sees. But he's putting his body on the line and doing all the dirty stuff that his teammates really appreciate. He's definitely taken his game to another level this year."