Eels v Storm: Five key points
The Storm did what they usually do on Monday night, refusing to give their opponents an inch and slowly grinding them out of the game. Here are five talking points from the Storm's 18-6 win over Parramatta.
Munster, Scott injuries not thought to be serious
Storm fullback Cameron Munster was close to the best player on the field in the 45 minutes before he hyperextended his elbow while Eels back-rower Beau Scott has been one of his team's best all year, making his early quad cork a major blow for the blue and golds.
Munster bravely threw his body in front of a rampaging Semi Radradra to stop a likely first half try before defusing a kick next play and battled through the pain of an elbow strain for the final 35 minutes of the contest in what was a fine all round performance.
With an avalanche of injuries in the outside backs and no real cover on the bench, the Storm could ill-afford to lose him for the game (they were just 8-0 up when his attempted fend on Brad Takairangi went wrong) or for any future games.
"I think he's ok, I think he's jarred it or hyper-extended it," his coach Craig Bellamy said after the game.
"I don't think it's anything real serious but having said that he's a tough kid. For him to stay out there tonight just goes to show how tough he is and how important footy is and his teammates are to him.
"It would have put us in a bit of a hole if we lost him at that stage but he battled on so I'm thinking it's not too bad and I'd imagine he'd be looking forward to the week off and hopefully he'll be 100 per cent next game."
Scott's corked quad forced him off after just 14 minutes and certainly didn't help the Eels in their quest to stop an in-form Storm outfit, but Arthur hoped the seven days until their trip to Newcastle would see him recover in time.
"He got a cork and just couldn't run it out. That's another one that with a seven day turnaround he should be okay," Arthur said.
Eels declare season not over
The unlikely equation is now 12 wins from 13 games for Brad Arthur's men if the NRL's preliminary salary cap penalty of 12 competition points ends up being the final one. Despite the almost overwhelming odds, Arthur wasn't having any of it so long as there is a chance.
"No [the finals aren't gone]; they've been made a little bit harder but that can't be our priority at the moment. It's got to be next week," Arthur said.
"We said what the equation was at the start, we need to keep it positive and we still need to keep it positive. We just need to focus on each week."
Regardless of the Eels' ladder situation, Arthur insisted motivation shouldn't be a problem for the players as the season goes on.
"There's plenty of motivation. At the end of the day we need to keep it the same," he said.
"We need to do what we've always done with how we control our week, do our review, be honest then find some energy at the back end of the week and give the boys a way we can win the game.
"Nothing's changed. We need to take it a week at a time but you put a couple of wins together and the whole thing can change."
Bellamy rapt with effort and defence
There were three or four instances were Parramatta players were held up over the line or stopped by the last line of defence. There were times when the Storm had to face a full set at their line. Besides a fortuitous Kieran Foran grubber pounced on by Michael Jennings a minute from full time, the Storm held their line intact through it all, to the delight of their coach Craig Bellamy.
"I thought our defence was great tonight. Our ball control in the first half especially was really good. I suppose ruthless is a good word, especially the way we defended," Bellamy said.
"To hold them to zero until the 79th minute was a tremendous effort. I thought our defence was really urgent tonight and that obviously led the way to win the game."
He added Parramatta's performance was "pretty good but ours was just a little bit better".
"We just went a little bit harder for a little bit longer than they did and that's what sort of broke them at the end.
"[We] just kept turning up and turning up. I don't know how many offloads they had tonight but they had a whole heap and they had a whole heap of shifting the footy as well so we expected that, we thought that would be the way we play and we practised for that all week.
"But knowing what they're going to do and actually going and stopping it - especially when it is a lot of offloads and you go and get some broken play off the back of that – as I said I'm really really proud of our persistence in defence and that was certainly the main ingredient to us getting a win tonight."
Off-field turmoil pushed to the side by Eels
In addition to the salary cap penalties, Parramatta have also had to deal with star halfback Kieran Foran missing a month due to personal issues and his halves partner Corey Norman potentially being caught up in a police investigation, but despite that Arthur said his side wasn't looking for excuses while Bellamy said his team couldn't afford to be distracted by those issues either.
"We all know what they've been going through and still going through so we weren't sure how they were going to turn up tonight and to be quite honest – I won't say we didn't care but at the end of the day we can't control how they turn up, we can control how we turn up and I'm really proud of the way our guys turned up," Bellamy said.
"We couldn't control how Kieran turned up, we all feel for what he's been through and what he's probably still going through.
"We didn't make special mention of him but we didn't ignore the fact that he was playing either. We all know what a good player he is so we just tried to treat him as we would normally and we did a really good job on their halves because that's a bit part of their team."
No Origin woes for Storm
Melbourne's Origin duo of Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk – despite a couple of uncharacteristic errors from each – were typically professional in their team's win and Smith said despite the looming Origin period it's an important part of being a representative player to keep your efforts high for your club at all times.
There was a suggestion some of Penrith's NSW hopefuls looked distracted or nervous by their possible Origin auditions in their late fadeout against the Titans on Sunday but there were no such worries for the Storm.
"It's a bit of an art that you need to work on; I remember when I was a young fella and started playing State of Origin and the time came around again you were in the frame to make the squad or the team and it would take a bit of focus away from your club football – especially the match before selection," Smith said.
"Those guys you mention from Penrith, they're only young kids. It probably got a little bit to them but for myself now the focus is all about club football until you get through that 80 minutes before you can jump on a plane and get into camp. That's all that really matters. It is important.
"First and foremost your job is to perform well for your respective club that you represent and it part of being a good representative player and just being a good rugby league player. There's times you need to represent your state or your country but first and foremost your focus needs to be on your club."