Eels coach Brad Arthur says star winger Blake Ferguson will be better for the run after his first game in six weeks with the NSW flyer showcasing his game-breaking capabilities with a scintillating second-half try against Brisbane.
Ferguson hadn’t played since the round 17 win over Wests Tigers due to knee surgery and a subsequent infection and was a bit rusty early in the 17-16 golden point loss to the Broncos.
He bounced back in the second half to score in the corner with all of his body in the air above the sideline, unveiling the quality he will bring to the table for the Eels against Manly next week and then in the finals series.
“He has been out for a while and hasn’t done a lot of training, and I thought he was way better in the second half where he just started to find his rhythm,” Arthur said.
“He hasn’t played outside Waqa [Blake] before and he is going to be better next week for us, and then moving into what is after that.”
The Eels remained on 28 competition points and in sixth position after the loss to Brisbane but showed plenty of character and class to fight back from a 16-6 deficit with two late tries levelling the scores in normal time.
“We tried hard again and the effort was there. We showed plenty of fight at the back end of the game and I thought we finished over the top of them,” Arthur said.
“We scored three tries to two but just lacked in a couple of big moments in the game where we are putting ourselves under a bit of pressure.
Match Highlights: Broncos v Eels
"There are probably more positives in it than negatives. We have just got to get some of the detail right in some of those moments of the game.”
The physical presence and ball playing ability of prop Junior Paulo also looms as a weapon for the Eels in the finals after he was dominant in the middle and set up Ferguson with a cut-out pass Brett Kenny in his pomp would have been proud of.
“He was really good tonight and a big body. He doesn’t take any short cuts in defence and he carries the ball strong out of the backfield, and also has a bit of footy in him,” Arthur said.
“I needed plenty of game time out of him and he churned through some good game time.”
Arthur said “any team in the top eight” could win the competition but added that his side must improve on the finer details against Manly at Bankwest Stadium next week.
Freakish Ferguson try gets the Eels back in it
“We started really well in the first 25 minutes tonight but we just lost our way. If something goes wrong in a set or end of the set we compound it with the next set or the next two sets,” he said.
“We have just got to be able to go set-to-set footy like we did in the second half.
"If something goes against us we’ve got to be able to ride it out. The Dogs last week was a really good grind for us. We kept fighting until the end but it is the detail in a few areas we have got to get right.
"Tonight was a tough grind and I am sure that is what is coming next week.”