Parramatta may have been overawed in a poor first half against Manly but found their execution in the second, Eels co-captain Jarryd Hayne said after the side's 22-12 win over the Sea Eagles at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.
The side reversed a 12-0 halftime deficit where it struggled to maintain pressure to produce a 22-0 second half shutout against the ladder leaders – a half coach Brad Arthur said was probably the best 40 minutes from his team this year.
"I think we got a bit of stage fright in the first half; we put plenty of pressure on them but we just couldn't execute," Hayne said.
"You see when we execute we were able to put points on them. I think that was the difference – in the first half we didn't execute our plays well enough, in the second half we did."
Arthur credited a new-found maturity in his squad which was able to shrug off the disappointment of a video referee decision overturning a try to Chris Sandow early in the first half with the side still down 12-0 at that stage.
"I think we matured as a team tonight," Arthur said.
The second 40 was a great half "not so much for the points that we scored but the way we defended and stayed composed and after Chrissy's try was disallowed, they didn't drop their heads," he said.
Hayne said the side improved their attitude from where it may have been in the past after the disheartening no-try rule – one which Arthur said left him "confused".
"I think we just came out [after the no-try] with a better attitude, with a better mind about executing," Hayne said.
"That [attitude] was probably the biggest thing we spoke about at half time. There's that rule about going behind the player but [decoy runner David Gower] didn't impede anyone – they made the call."
Arthur said as recently as last week against the Bulldogs the side had things go against them early but stayed composed.
"We don't have a lot of experience but the experience we do have in Jarryd and Timmy are able to keep the boys calm and our two halves, they stood up tonight and played a good, disciplined, controlled game. We managed to keep turning them away, turning them away in the second half.
"Like Jarryd said we knew if we executed we'd give ourselves a chance. We remember back to Round 3 [against Manly at Brookvale] we threw everything at them in the first 10 minutes and we spoke about that after half time and it worked out OK."
Hayne said when the side executes its plays well, ball movement is its biggest strength.
"When we're on we're on, when we're off we're off. It's probably our biggest downfall in the first half – we'd step in front or step behind the pass, it was little things like that that hurt us. That comes with experience.
"We need to get better, we need to build on nights like tonight and realise how good we are. We don't have a lot of experience in the team and don't have a lot of old heads. There's a lot of responsibility on the boys but it's about stepping up to the plate and taking that challenge."
Hayne said he had "no doubt" the side can give the finals series a shake from here.
"That's what we're looking at, that's what we're aiming for. We were close last week. Tonight that second 40 was awesome and we've got to be like that for the full 80. That's what the good teams do. We're a good team at the moment but we've got to go to that extra level and play for the full 80.
"It's about everyone playing their role, being in the right spot at the right time. As soon as one person's out if affects the whole play. That's our biggest strength and our biggest weakness. We control that, the better we do it and the more we do it under pressure the better it's going to be for us."
Arthur couldn't put his finger on what made the side click, but suggested it was a confidence issue.
"If you're executing OK and get half a break or some sort of reward out of it and grow in confidence and they stick to it, that's what happened in the first half. We didn't quite get the reward out of it then that's what happened in the second half, they grow another leg and find another gear in terms of energy."