Dragons v Eels: Five key points
St George Illawarra came crashing back to earth while Parramatta continued their impressive start to the year on Sunday evening, downing the Dragons 34-16 at WIN Stadium on the back of a Semi Radradra four-bagger.
Semi hits new heights with four tries
For all of Semi Radradra's try scoring feats, this is the first time the Fijian flyer has crossed for four meat pies in a single NRL game.
He had a quick brace early on, touching down in the 17th and 22nd minutes – both off Michael Jennings passes. He was on the back of an overlap created by Corey Norman midway through the second half while his fourth came from a set play after a scrum, amazingly on the right side of the field running a beautiful line off a Bevan French inside ball.
"Semi has a license to go and get his hands on the football," said Eels coach Brad Arthur.
"We're not going to pigeon-hole him into one side of the field. It's very hard to plan defensively against him when he's doing things like that."
Errors start early for Dragons
Parramatta held 57 per cent of the ball and had the superior completion rate by 83 per cent to 69 per cent, with the Dragons committing 12 errors to Parramatta's eight.
It started early with Russell Packer spilling it from a regulation hit-up off the very first play of the game, which handed the Eels a try in the first minute of play.
The same man was at it again in the second half, coming up with a cold drop again attempting a hit-up after a kick-off with his team just having scored to give themselves a glimmer of hope for a late comeback – hopes that were quickly extinguished.
"We didn't give ourselves any opportunity," lamented Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
"We didn't build any pressure. Six of their tries came directly off our errors. We kicked the ball dead four times. We beat ourselves up a bit tonight."
Jennings finds his passing game
The other talking point out of Radradra's four-try haul was the passing game of his inside man Michael Jennings.
Some Eels fans declared – perhaps unfairly – that Radradra's try-scoring spree of 2015 would come to a halt when Brad Takairangi was moved to the right side of the field to accommodate Test and State of Origin centre Jennings.
While Jennings does have a reputation as someone who would rather run than pass – often to the detriment of his outside man – it's not entirely deserved.
Jennings did little to dispel that reputation early on, holding the ball and getting tackled having done all the hard work of drawing the winger and leaving an unmarked Radradra hanging in just the sixth minute.
He made amends with a nice try-assist pass in the 18th minute. Five minutes later, having decided regulation passes for try assists were a bit too straightforward, he came up with a miraculous through-the-legs on-ball to send Radradra over yet again as the Eels raced out to a three-tries-to-none lead.
Eight days is a long time
"Eight days is a long time in rugby league," McGregor smiled ruefully when asked about the downturn in his team's fortunes after the high of a 42-10 win over Penrith in Round 1.
However he was adamant the club hadn't fallen victim to complacency so early in the season and was disappointed on behalf of what was a huge home crowd at WIN Stadium.
"No, I don't think there was any complacency. It's just about turning up and doing our job and playing with some passion," McGregor said.
"Our preparation was fine. We had an eight-day turnaround. We were playing at home in front of a great crowd of 16,000 which was exciting.
"We went out and didn't play to the best of our ability. That can happen. It's how quick you turn that around but. We've got a tough game coming up against Cronulla at the Shire.
"It's a local derby so the boys will be up for that. We'll learn from what we dished up tonight but move on quickly and get ready for Cronulla."
Eels' bright start their best in 18 years
Believe it or not, the Eels haven't won two in a row to open their season since way back in 1999. Not in their record-breaking 2001 season, nor in their 2005 minor premiership year. Even in one or two of their less successful years you'd think at some point they'd have gone 2-0, but no.
They've been pretty consistent – in only four of those 16 seasons have they gone 0-2 meaning they're almost always 1-1 after the opening fortnight, often winning in Round 1.
With the sublime form of halfback Corey Norman – who Arthur again insisted is still a fair way off hitting peak form and match fitness – and a rebuilt and damaging forward pack, Eels fans will be hoping this is the start of the club's first finals appearance since 2009 – the longest such drought of any of the 16 NRL clubs.