Cowboys v Eels: Five key points
Just when you thought Jake Granville had shown us everything he just keeps punching through ceilings, Parramatta ought to keep their heads held high, and the Cowboys' right side is starting to come together.
Jake Granville is the full package
It boggles the mind just how affable and easy-going Jake Granville is off the field. He just doesn't know how good he is. Despite his one-dimensional reputation, Granville is not just the energiser bunny out of dummy half. He is one of the league's smartest hookers and has the art of decision-making to a T. He makes quick reads of opposition defensive lines and knows when to run, when to draw defenders and guide support players into holes, and when to get Johnathan Thurston early ball so he can go to work.
Manly's Willie Mason recently gave the 26-year-old the "league's most underrated hooker" moniker, but it's getting to the point where "most underrated" could soon be replaced with "best". His threat to run the ball had Parramatta's heads spinning on Monday night as the dummy-half ran for 191 metres – more than any other player on the field.
Mentor Paul Green was full of praise for his most successful Intrust Super Cup pupil, saying Granville's combination with fellow members of the spine was getting stronger by the week.
"He's playing good, Jake. He's been god consistently for us, and we've all spoken about how he adds another dimension to our attack," Green said after the game.
"Coming off the back of some of our big guys – they're bringing him into the game and giving him those opportunities. I think as a team we're getting better at playing with him as well.
"'Johnno' [Thurston] is getting better playing with Jake and vice versa so they're getting to know each other's games and building those combos, which is important. He's getting better as the season goes."
Parramatta not as bad as scoreboard suggests
A 46-4 scoreline makes for ugly reading for Eels fans, but the real story is not so grisly. Parramatta fans are an educated bunch and they will know that for 60 minutes their side was in the hunt with just a 10-point deficit; then came the five-try flood.
Captain Tim Mannah denied fatigue was a factor in the loss, but five tries in the final 20 minutes is of little coincidence when only one side is doing the tackling. With 70 more tackles than the Cowboys, Parramatta simply ran out of gas late, evidenced by their 29 missed tackles.
While unhappy, coach Brad Arthur highlighted the positive efforts of his players.
"We were disappointed with the end result. I think the points put on us is disappointing but I think it's probably a bit unfair too," Arthur said.
"I don't think we were that bad and I didn't think they (Cowboys) were that good. They had 12 sets more than us and 15 repeat sets to our six so when you only have 35 per cent possession, it's hard to keep defending and defending and defending against such a class outfit.
"(We) tried hard and we're not happy with the end result, and we made it hard for ourselves. Maybe if we didn't bomb two tries to start the second half – if we get one of them – maybe the energy lifts, I'm not sure."
Cowboys' right edge starting to get there
The Cowboys' much-maligned right side defence has conceded just three tries in as many games in their wins over the Dragons, Sea Eagles and Eels. Left winger Antonio Winterstein told of how the left edge of himself and Kane Linnett are consulting with Matthew Wright and Justin O'Neill on the right. The Cowboys' left edge is one of the more solid sides of the field on both attack and defence in the league, with opposition right-side wingers/centres scoring just five of the last 31 tries the Cowboys have conceded.
When asked about the secret to such a solid defensive partnership, Winterstein said: "I think it's the time played together. We've been on that edge for a few years now and know each others' game and how we defend, so that's an advantage as well.
"That right edge is getting better every week. They're a good strike weapon for us to hit the edges so as long as we can get them good ball and the talk keeps improving week to week, they'll be good.
"We do it every day at training and we help out when we can and they do the same for us. We're there to help each other out and do what's best for the team."
Radradra more than just a Semi-trailer
Much like Granville, Semi Radradra does not get credit for a lot of what he does. Known for bulldozing defenders, scoring tries and running with his mouth open, Radradra came up with plays of finesse and intellect on Monday. Getting the assist for Reece Robinson's try off a scrum play, the Fijian spaced the outer edge perfectly and tip-toed the touchline to hit his custodian back with a left-handed scoop pass while being thrown out of bounds.
Next, after catching a Luke Kelly bomb close to the goal line, he backpedalled toward the try line and drew defenders away from Brad Takairangi who was only denied a try by a freakish diving effort from Justin O'Neill as he was putting the ball down.
"(Radradra) has gotten better. He's grown and he knows his role and it's not just about scoring tries for him," Eels coach Brad Arthur said after the game.
"There are some other parts to his game that he's worked hard on and he's growing as a footballer."
Kostjasyn edges ahead in back-up utility race
Paul Green has said his decision on utility selections for future games will change based on the opposition but with Rory Kostjasyn putting in his best game of the season to date, the coach has likely found his No.14 for the rest of the year unless Kostjasyn's form takes a dive. The hard-working defensive stalwart was a little more daring with the pill against Parramatta when he came on for Jake Granville. In 28 minutes Kostjasyn ran four times out of dummy half, including a burrowing try in which he ran onto the play-the-ball with momentum from a metre out.
"It's awesome to play alongside Rory. He's an experienced player and he got a try tonight and he's playing really well," Granville said of his back-up.
With 19 tackles in his 28-minute stint, Kostjasyn was active when called upon and has hit form at the right time of year.