'Desperate' Eels need to back themselves
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur admits confidence is an issue at the Eels right now but has praised his side's committed defensive effort in a one-try-apiece 12-6 loss to Penrith on Sunday.
The Eels defended impressively against a Penrith side that put on 33 points against the Cowboys in Townsville last week but struggled to make the most of a number of attacking chances.
Their second-phase play was almost non-existent until a desperate final 15 minutes and had a few more passes stuck (including one that an unmarked Josh Hoffman spilled with the line open in the 27th minute) the result could have been very different for a team now sitting on its worst start to a season since they went 0-5 in 1991.
"The attitude was good this week, commitment was great. It's a bit annoying it hasn't been there for four weeks but we need to take that and move forward with that," Arthur said after the game.
"We can't have any less than that if we want to dig ourselves out of this hole. At some stage the bounce of the ball or an opportunity – we probably bombed two or three opportunities – they'll stick as long as we keep staying in the fight. If we don't stay in the fight those opportunities won't come.
"To Penrith's credit they turned up and defended really well. They wanted it just as bad. I'm sure there were a couple of opportunities we needed to take in the first half.
''We dropped the ball with the try-line wide open. You score one of them it could be the momentum or the energy that you need."
Arthur was reluctant to suggest team changes were afoot for an already injury-wrecked squad. He now faces a nervous wait on Kirisome Auva'a (knee) and Nathan Brown (ankle), the latter of whom reverted to his player-of-the-season 2017 form in a powerful stint against Penrith's in-form pack.
Tepai Moeroa will also need to go through concussion protocols after coming off for a second HIA late in the game.
Asked about his team's lack of enterprise at times, Arthur said when confidence is down and players get more nervous about the result it can get harder to put on plays.
"I think in times likes this when you're a bit nervous at the start of games, 'do we make the pass, don't we, do we offload the footy, don't we' - [we just need to] relax a little bit and make those plays and back ourselves a touch more," he said.
Match: Eels vs Panthers
Venue: ANZ Stadium
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"It's easier said than done when you're chasing victory and the last thing you want to do is turn the ball over so I can understand where the players are at. We've got to chase it a bit more and back ourselves a bit more.
"I'm not going to be critical of that part of it. They chance their hand and we turn the ball over and we're none from five, with completion... when you're confident and put those plays on they stick.
"It will turn but it's getting pretty desperate now.
"It's a confidence thing, we talked about it during the week because at the back end of the game last week when we had nothing to lose we played our football. Moving forward, you need to make sure you're confident in your defence and defensive attitude to be able to do that as well."