We know we can attack Cowboys: Eels
Parramatta players say the 24-point lead they earned against the Cowboys last time the two sides met is giving them confidence they can attack the competition heavyweights, rather than the late capitulation that caused them to lose that game bearing on their minds.
In one of the most memorable games of the season at Pirtek Stadium back in Round 13, the Eels raced out to a 30-6 lead early in the second half before the wheels fell off on the back of a Johnathan Thurston masterclass and a six-minute hat-trick from Gavin Cooper as five tries in 11 minutes buried the home side.
An understrength Eels team missing both first choice halves in Corey Norman (knee) and Chris Sandow (released) as well as forward stalwarts Anthony Watmough and Danny Wicks, and others including Richie Fa'aoso, Kenny Edwards, Beau Champion and Kaysa Pritchard is given little hope of toppling Johnathan Thurston and co. on their home patch.
But new five-eighth – Eels utility forward Joe Paulo – is adamant the side has the firepower to worry the second-placed Cowboys.
"I think the Cowboys have been the in-form team of the whole NRL; this challenge, we're going to have to be ready, we obviously shook them up last time we played them but not for the whole 80," Paulo told NRL.com.
"We're going into this game knowing that we can actually attack these guys and obviously compete with them. For us, competing in attack, we did that well last time but it's all about our defence.
"We've got to be more urgent, be ready – we know the likes of 'JT' and [Michael] Morgan, they're probably the most quality halves in the comp at the moment. For us, we're going to have to be ready because they're going to be striking on the first, third, last tackle so for us it's all about competing in defence and being ready for the challenge."
Eels centre Brad Takairangi said he was more than happy for the side to be written off before the game had even started.
"It's a backs-to-the-wall approach... no one gives us a chance and we love that, we've trained really well this week, and we're looking forward to going up there and doing a job," he said.
"We've put a lot of emphasis on this game this week. We did well against them for 60 minutes last time we played them and it wasn't good enough. We know we have to play for the full 80 minutes if we're any chance of getting the two points.
"We're very confident with our attack but that's not going to win us the game, it's going to be our defence. They've got threats all over the park with JT, and Morgan's playing really good footy too."
Takairangi had faith that Parramatta's potent left-edge attack, that has seen winger Semi Radradra keep pace at the top of the season try-scoring tally with 17 tries in 11 games, could still fire in the absence of regular contributor Norman.
"We do lose Normy but we've got 'Sef' [Paulo] there and as long as we can get some clean ball and play off the back of the forwards I'm sure we can do our thing," he said.
"'Kels' [halfback Luke Kelly] is a really calming influence on our team, he's got a great kicking game and organises the boys well and we've got Sef there who's a great ball player. Hopefully if the forwards go forward for us we can jump on the back of that and do our job out wide."
Kelly added: "I didn't play last time but the boys were on fire for the first 40 or 50 minutes.
"We obviously know what happened [falling away after that] but it definitely gives the team confidence that if we play to our best we're good enough to match it with the Cowboys.
"It's about us being consistent with our performance, that's going to be the challenge for us on Monday night."
Lock David Gower, starting in the No.13 jersey in place of Watmough, said the side had learned some lessons since their last loss to the Cowboys.
"We're taking a lot of confidence out from the last time we played them and the fact that we played well for 60 or 65 minutes," he said.
"If we can go up there and put a complete performance in we're confident we can be in it at the end.
He said the last time the teams met, once the Cowboys started to get a bit of momentum Parramatta hadn't been able to stop it.
"We took a lot of lessons out of that performance and we're a better side now than we were then," he said.