Brad Arthur said neither a run of recent strong form nor the absence of key men was any excuse for his team's inept defensive performance in the first quarter of their 22-18 loss to the Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Saturday night.
With just one loss all season – to heavyweights the Roosters – heading into the game, including a narrow and bruising win over the Knights last week, an injury-hit Eels squad had plenty of excuses not to be switched on against Manly but Arthur wasn't having any of it.
"Good teams keep getting themselves up all the time," he said.
"If we want to be a good team and play some reasonable football, teams are going to come after us and we have to be prepared for it.
"We can't wait until 20 minutes in before we decide, 'geez we're going to have to roll our sleeves up and have a crack'."
Arthur savaged the three soft early tries as Manly raced out to a 16-0 lead after as many minutes, with Marty Taupau crashing through some flimsy defence before Daly Cherry-Evans and Danny Levi each strolled over almost untouched in between left side defenders Shaun Lane and Dylan Brown.
Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Eels
"For whatever reason we weren't prepared to roll our sleeves up at the start of the game," he added.
"There were some silly errors or defensive lapses or not even enough effort to put our bodies in front of players on the try line. Soft tries.
"You work so hard then in the space of 10 minutes to undo it all with some real soft efforts on the tryline.
"It was four tries each but the tries that we allowed at the start of the game were soft. You can't say it any other way. It is what it is, they're a good tough footy team, we knew exactly what we were walking into."
The Eels were without back-rower Ryan Matterson (thumb fracture), winger Blake Ferguson (knee) and halfback Mitch Moses (calf), with all three a chance of taking on the Wests Tigers in a week.
Michael Jennings gets the Eels on the board
Lock Nathan Brown suffered a corked hip in the first half and took no further part in the match and winger Maika Sivo injured a knee late in the match but is expected to be good to go next week.
Arthur conceded the team's response to keep Manly scoreless in the second half and stage a comeback of sorts to get within four points was a positive.
"There's a positive there," he said.
"We talked about it, we thought we could get enough points in the second half but we had to keep them scoreless. That's a positive sign for us."