Arthur: Storm loss a missed opportunity
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has praised the effort of his players to fight back after a Melbourne Storm onslaught but admits they missed an opportunity to turn the Telstra Premiership Finals Series on its head.
Leading 10-4 at half-time, the Eels conceded two tries in the space of four minutes early in the second half to fall behind 16-10 and when Cameron Smith added a penalty goal in the 63rd minute the eight-point deficit seemed a large gap to bridge.
A spectacular try to Semi Radradra ensured a pulsating finish but the Storm were able to quell a second Eels resurgence to book their path to the Preliminary Final with an 18-16 win at AAMI Park.
Parramatta's path to the prelim now entails a semi-final showdown with either the Sharks or Cowboys at ANZ Stadium next weekend but Arthur was adamant that they showed enough to confirm his thoughts that they are capable of reaching the grand final.
"That's a missed opportunity but the boys showed plenty of want, plenty of desire, showed that we are good enough," Arthur said post-game.
"No one gave us a chance but we showed that we're good enough.
"I'm extremely proud of our boys for the way they fought back, we just didn't have any ball or field position in that second half and the first opportunity we got down there we scored."
Runaway minor premiers and playing on home soil, the Storm were heavily backed to win 13-plus on Saturday afternoon but the Eels' high energy efforts both with and without the ball brought errors out of the most clinical team in the competition.
The Storm made nine errors to Parramatta's seven and despite finishing on the wrong side of the scoreboard vindicated to captain Tim Mannah what they can achieve in 2017.
"We're not surprised to be in the position we're in," Mannah said.
"We've got a lot of belief in our squad and our coaching staff so the goal doesn't change for us. We'll strive for the big goal and prepare for this next game.
"We were pretty confident at half-time. We obviously knew Melbourne weren't going to go away. I thought the boys showed a lot of courage to hang in the way they did but we're focusing now on next week.
"We'll learn some lessons from this game but it's on again next week for us."
One of the many turning points in the contest was a penalty against Manu Ma'u for changing his line and impeding Billy Slater on a kick chase with the Storm scoring their second try in quick succession shortly after.
While admitting it was a bad penalty to give, Arthur questioned why Parramatta centre Brad Takairangi hadn't received a penalty for a similar offence late in the first half.
"It wasn't a great penalty but there was one just before half-time when Brad Takairangi was run off the ball, and has been all year, and we didn't get a penalty," Arthur said.
"It is what it is. You get penalised, you've got to learn to defend them.
"You can't give Melbourne set starts and I think they had five, six set starts in the second half from penalties which doesn't help.
Ma'u and Daniel Alvaro were both placed on report by referee Ben Cummins and while Arthur was confident Tepai Moeroa would recover sufficiently from his head knock that forced him off in the first half, he wasn't sure whether hooker Cameron King suffered an arm injury late in the second term.