Grinners are winners, says Arthur
Four years have passed since the Parramatta Eels were in finals contention this late in a season and coach Brad Arthur has urged his men to embrace the moment as their 24-18 win over the Titans on Saturday night kept them within reach of the top eight.
A Jarryd Hayne double midway through the second half effectively turned the crucial clash on its head after the Titans led 12-6 after 50 minutes and ensures the Eels can go into the final six games of the regular season with their finals destiny in their own hands.
The Eels haven't figured in an NRL Finals Series since they scraped into the top eight in 2009 and embarked on a giant-killing run that took them all the way to the Grand Final and Arthur believes their prospects this year rest on a positive attitude and greater execution.
"We just need to get back to having a bit of fun and getting a smile on our face. I thought the boys did that and there's a little bit of relief in the sheds after the game," Arthur said.
"It just shows that if we're willing to compete and roll our sleeves up and come with a good attitude we're good enough to match it. Now we just need to be better with our execution; we can't continually break the line and create opportunities and not come up with the right play.
"We bombed five or six tries, and we're getting pretty good at that, not taking our opportunities. We played a little bit nervous but we managed scrap and hang on and compete and that's a priority for us so hopefully we can settle into our game a little bit better now."
The inclusions of Will Hopoate, Tim Mannah and Ken Sio were made by Arthur effectively a week ago but only made official an hour before kick-off and helped to add some polish to a team adept at creating opportunities but wasteful in their eventual execution.
In greasy conditions the short kicking game of Chris Sandow forced the Titans into four goal-line dropouts compared to none for the Eels and Arthur commended Sandow and five-eighth Corey Norman for the way they controlled the game.
"I thought the two halves actually controlled the game the best they've done for a while. We played good field position and it was just a matter of wearing them down in the end, which we did, but we still bombed a few opportunities," Arthur said.
"The two halves have been working really hard on that part of their game and they know that it needed to be better and it was better tonight and there are still some areas there they can improve on even more.
"I thought they controlled the game and managed the game better and we played better field position than them in the long run."
The Eels' final try of the night came courtesy of Norman's pressure of Titans halfback Daniel Mortimer on a Sandow grubber behind the posts and Hayne said that earning repeat sets for the forwards had been a focus for the fast men.
"That's probably one of the areas that we need to work on. We're not good at repeat sets and we haven't had a lot and just speaking with the boys after the game, especially the forwards, they were saying how much better it is to get a repeat set and take a bit of pressure off them," Hayne said.
"They don't have to defence a set straight away and for us backs we enjoy the set starts."