Eels v Raiders: Five key points
The Parramatta attack finally lifted to match their impressive defence in a big home win over the Raiders. Here are five talking points from their 36-6 victory.
A defensive passage for the ages
Needing a bright start to the second half to put the match beyond Canberra's reach, the Eels produced exactly the opposite with an early knock on via Danny Wicks then a knock-down from Brad Takairangi, followed by three straight penalties to give their opponents seven straight sets over seven minutes and around 20 consecutive plays at their line.
The positive side of that was their blue and gold wall holding firm until Blake Austin spilled a Joey Leilua offload. The vigorous high-fives and cheering from the Eels players revealed a side that is well and truly enjoying its work in defence at the moment. Coach Brad Arthur unsurprisingly had mixed feelings about the passage after the game.
"We made an error first set of the second half which is not the way we need to be starting our second halves," he said.
"It was seven minutes that we spent defending our try-line so credit to the boys there that they kept turning up for each other. There's a bit of confidence about our try-line defence at the moment but just because we're confident doesn't mean we need to spend plenty of time there."
Fatigued Fensom had a judiciary worry
Workhorse Raiders lock Shaun Fensom looked completely spent when he was finally interchanged in the 69th minute – and even that via a free concussion check change.
Fensom has made 95 tackles in the past six days though will have a nervous wait to find out if his well-earned rest goes on longer than the eight days until his team's home game against Cronulla next week.
He was placed on report in the 52nd minute after meeting Michael Gordon on a kick return and lifting the Eels fullback while teammate Joe Tapine contributed to Gordon tipping awkwardly. The fact he placed neither hand between Gordon's legs in the tackle may work in his favour.
"I don't think he had his hand up between his legs or what not but I'd have to review it again to see exactly where the legs went," was coach Ricky Stuart's immediate assessment post-game.
Of Fensom's removal under the head knock rule, he added: "I think just the amount of work he had to do he was fatigued. He had a lot of work in both games over the last five days. He's an amazing player in regards to his workload and what he gets through."
Parra's vaunted left edge sparks into life
While winger Semi Radradra had little to do with it, Parramatta's left edge finally showed what it was capable of as Corey Norman, Manu Ma'u, Michael Gordon and Michael Jennings linked up beautifully to wreck the Raiders in the opening exchanges.
With Ma'u's battering runs making him a genuine decoy threat and Gordon finding his timing, Norman was the ringleader laying on two early tries for speedster Jennings.
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker wasn't prepared to lay any blame with his team's right side for the poor start though.
"They've got some good players out on that left edge, they're pretty potent out there but we've got to have a look at that and work out why [we played like that]," he said.
"There are 13 across the park, there's no left or right or middles, it was the 13 of us and we have to go back and have a look at why we weren't as good as what we should have been."
Beau Scott wins the edge battle against Josh Papalii
One of the most mouth-watering individual clashes on show in this game was Parramatta's right-side defensive rock against Canberra's left edge destructive ball runner.
The shame of it was that it only lasted 34 minutes as Beau Scott was interchanged and not brought back but in that time he defended better – making 17 tackles with no misses – while also giving his opposing men some big headaches with ball in hand, breaking two tackles and offloading four times to be the key contributor to the Eels' brilliant start.
Papalii was by no means bad – certainly no worse than any of his fatigued teammates – but his 80 minute spell ended with 28 tackles with two missed and just 78 metres gained with no offloads, line breaks or tackle busts.
Just to rub salt in Canberra's wounds one of Scott's last acts before going from the field was to score his team's fourth of four quick-fire first-half tries, showing it's not just his work in defence that is to be admired.
Stuart can afford a smile after razzing
With former Eels coach Ricky Stuart's team on the wrong side of a 30-point trouncing, the blue and gold faithful sent up an ironic cheer of 'Ricky, Ricky' towards the end of the game.
While Stuart's contribution in overhauling the Eels roster is arguably a huge factor in the club's current strong form, he is hardly a favourite with Eels fans – but the man himself was happy to laugh about it after the game.
"There's nothing wrong with that, it's a bit of fun, it's banter. I just really appreciate the fact they're still thinking of me!" Stuart laughed after the game.
What he wasn't happy about was his team's 11 errors with the ball and some mistakes without the ball that put them under pressure and hurt their chances to threaten in attack after a fast start by the Eels.
"It was hard to drag it back, probably through a lot of errors we kept making with the footy," he said.
"I think any losing coach in here is going to talk about the errors you made. It probably becomes a bit of a trend. You can't get too much momentum if you make an error but we were off today.
"We had some silly errors that just cost us but as I said we were off and we're a better football team than that.
"We know we've got points in us. We executed poorly through our attack today and I think it was all a consequence of our execution in defence, that's where it all stemmed from."