Fiery Eels forwards respond to coach's challenge
Underpinning Parramatta's Friday night upset win over Brisbane was a monumental effort from their largely unheralded forward pack against a star-studded Brisbane pack and after the game coach Brad Arthur revealed he laid down a challenge to his middle men to lift
"I challenged the forwards during the week [saying] we've been good and we've been holding our own but we just needed to go to another level and I thought they did that," Arthur said after the game.
The win is Parramatta's fifth straight; their best streak under Arthur and best since 2009.
But rightly or wrongly, there has been a pervading opinion in rugby league circles that the Eels pack won't quite have the power to match it with the top teams in the business end of the season. That may well have changed after Friday night.
Having been shellshocked early it was the response of the forwards that dragged Parramatta back into the contest.
Skipper Tim Mannah had one of his best spells of the year, making close to 100 metres in the first 21 minutes of the game. Lock Nathan Brown, who has been a dynamo all year but especially since being pushed into the starting pack, racked up 223 metres and 43 tackles.
Bench forward Kenny Edwards brought mountains of impact and aggression with five tackle busts to go with his line break assist, two offloads and 123 metres. While his cheap shot on Jonus Pearson probably crossed to the wrong side of the aggression line there is no question his in-your-face style adds a much-needed dimension to the Eels pack.
While Suaia Matagi's 91 metres in 29 minutes are handy on their own, a late charge from a kick-off to start the set after points five minutes from time was so magically violent it reverberated around ANZ Stadium and scattered the Broncos defenders like nine-pins, with his subsequent offload allowing Michael Jennings to race downfield and highlighted just what Arthur wants from his middle men over the closing six rounds of the regular season.
"On the back of some of our carries in our first set in attack we made some really good metres and I think we gained some confidence with our defence on the back of that," Arthur said.
Mannah believed the pack worked together far better than it had so far this year.
"In weeks gone by, I thought we've been trying hard but we've all been on different pages whereas this week we were all on the same page and working hard with each other and made it feel a lot more effortless," Mannah said.
Edwards said his team is more than happy for people to expect opposition packs to get the better of them.
"Our forward pack is underrated and we love that, we love coming to the games with our back against the wall," Edwards said.
"[Brisbane] have got a great forward pack, a lot of Test players and Origin players in that forward pack but I think we took it to them."
Fullback Bevan French, who played a starring role of his own at the back in the absence of Clint Gutherson, praised the response of his forwards after a slow start.
"I think for the first five minutes [Brisbane] had the upper hand and for the rest of the game our forwards ran harder and tackled harder and we made quite a few metres and we spoke about that during the week, more intent from our forwards and I think they did that," French said.