Disappointed Eels coach Brad Arthur says he is tremendously proud of the fighting spirit his injury-ravaged squad showed in riding premiership favourites the Roosters all the way on Saturday night, before eventually going down 28-18 having led most of the way.
"We're disappointed but I thought the effort was tremendous," he said after the match.
"We've got half our salary cap sitting on the sidelines, they're the premiership favourites, I thought the boys tried their backsides off. Just at the end we were probably outclassed a little bit."
Arthur is without much of his forward pack, including Anthony Watmough, Danny Wicks, Richie Fa'aoso and Kenny Edwards, centres Will Hopoate and Beau Champion, bench hooker Kaysa Pritchard, while halfback Chris Sandow recently made an acrimonious and well-publicised departure to the UK.
Despite the calibre of personnel unavailable and the fact skipper Tim Mannah was added to that list when he finished the game after 25 minutes with a knee strain, the Eels led the title favourites from the time Mannah opened the scoring in the 11th minute until in-form Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves rampaged over in the 71st.
"I'm grateful to the playing group because every game this year we've been in the contest, we've just got to learn to turn being in a contest into wins," Arthur said.
"But the effort's been great and we need to make sure we continue to front up next week and the week after and whatever we've got left.
"[The Roosters are] physical and they run hard and it takes a lot of energy to keep fronting up but a couple of errors out of the red zone and you're giving them quality ball in good field position, some penalties, back-to-back sets makes it hard against a quality team.
"I think we completed our first 15 sets to start the game so we had an even share of the ball. Second half we didn't have an even share of the ball. They're a quality team but I can't say how proud I am of our boys. They were tremendous in terms of their effort, we've just got to be a bit smarter."