Eels hitting season-best form: Arthur
Thursday night's comprehensive 20-4 shut-down of Canterbury may have propelled Parramatta to 30 competition points and a (possibly temporary) billing inside the NRL top four but in the opinion of coach Brad Arthur it is just the second time this year the team has put in a thorough and complete performance.
Positively for the Eels, those efforts have come in back-to-back weeks, at the right time of year.
Last week's sloppy 0-12 start against Brisbane aside, the Eels have been near faultless in their last 150 minutes of football and for Arthur, it is not time to talk about the club's impending first finals appearance in eight years, but rather how they can continue to maintain those standards through the end of the regular season.
Arthur has been doing his best to keep a lid on the hype but with mid-season recruit Mitch Moses in stunning form and Parramatta's largely unheralded forward pack brutalising highly-rated opposition packs two weeks in a row, he may be fighting a losing battle.
"What's important for us is we've now probably put in two back-to-back performances which we haven't done all year in terms of having 17 players all own their jobs and play their role, and that's two in a row so it'd be nice to get three in a row next week [against Newcastle]," Arthur said.
The coach insisted a finals finish was not yet confirmed despite 30 competition points widely being considered the cut-off. While it is technically possible if the Eels lose all their remaining games for them to miss the finals, no team has got to 30 points and missed the cut since the 17-team competition of 1999.
"If we keep winning and we keep performing well we should be good enough to make the finals and that's what we need to focus on. It's Tim [Mannah]'s 200th [NRL game] next week so if we can't find a reason to play next week we're in trouble," Arthur added.
The Eels played to the conditions perfectly, forcing nine goal line drop outs, kicking excellently in general play and matching those kicks with relentless chases and owning 55 per cent of possession, producing just six errors (against 11 for Canterbury) in the whole game.
"I don't know if it was a real spectacle, the game, but we knew what the conditions were going to be and what we worked on all week was just kicking and chasing the ball and making our tackles and I thought the boys did a really good job of that," Arthur said.
"Completion, their handling, attention to detail on the basic fundamentals was probably better than I thought. It's a good effort. I know we probably didn't throw a great deal [in terms of attack] but we had to play to the conditions."
The Eels lost a bit of fluency after half-time with fullback Bevan French taken from the field as a precaution with hamstring tightness, forcing five-eighth Corey Norman to the back and back-rower Kenny Edwards to the halves.
Arthur wasn't concerned French would miss football, though he could ill-afford to lose a second fullback after the recent season-ending injury to Clint Gutherson.
"I think he's OK," Arthur said of French.
"His hamstring tightened up and as a precaution we took him off. In those conditions too it wouldn't have been ideal to lead him out there in the heavy conditions."