Bulldogs v Eels: Five Key Points
Parramatta were resilient in defence and belligerent with the ball on the way to a dominant upset win over Canterbury in Round 3. Here are five talking points from their 20-6 victory.
Freewheeling Eels toss plenty of offloads
Parramatta were happy to pop the ball out the back, particularly early in the match, racking up a 14-3 advantage in offloads by half-time. The Bulldogs clawed plenty back in the second half but the blue and golds still finished with a 17-11 advantage in that category – despite their top offloader of the opening two rounds in Manu Ma'u being out through a one game suspension.
Form prop Junior Paulo popped four on his own in the first half and after the game coach Brad Arthur said he was happy for his charges to offload when they saw fit so long as they were prepared to back their risks with their defence.
"We give our boys a licence to play a bit of footy," he said.
"As long as we're willing to back it up with our defence and play tough, but also there's a time and place for it. If you carry the ball hard usually you'll get yourself in a position where you can offload the footy. If we've got someone we can pass it to it's hard to defend. Teams are very good nowadays at defending set plays and structures so if you can break them up somehow – and the Dogs got a few on us at the back end of that game that became harder for us to defend."
A controversial no try from the bunker
One thing that didn't really seem to be in dispute from either camp was that the right call was made in the end, though fans at the ground could be forgiven for being confused at the time.
A 57th minute offload from Sam Kasiano looked to have floated forward for winger Sam Perrett to ground the ball and claim a try. Referee Matt Cecchin sent the play to the bunker as a try, though it was later revealed by referees boss Tony Archer that the touch judge had indicated he thought the pass was forward.
Cecchin sent it up as a try because he was of the view it had travelled forward due to a touch from Parramatta, adding that if the bunker could confirm no touch from the Eels the forward pass call would instead stand.
Bulldogs fans at the ground celebrated when they saw the grounding was cleared but their celebrations were short lived as the try call was rightly overturned.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler and James Graham confessed to some confusion but refused to bag the decision, nor blame it for their loss.
"It probably was a momentum killer," Hasler conceded.
"The only thing I can assume is that he shouldn't have called a try, he should have sent it straight to the bunker I guess."
Added Graham of the confusion: "I guess that they'd given try and I guess I didn't know you could overturn it on a forward pass but I don't think that's why we lost tonight, let's be honest. Maybe it's a different game, it gives us some momentum but I don't believe it's the reason we lost."
Arthur was just relived the right call was the result.
"I thought it was forward, I just wasn't sure whether they're allowed to rule on it or not," he said.
"That's a bit of common sense too isn't it? If it's a forward pass and we've got all this technology with the bunker, let's rule on it. Let's not have a try that's not a try."
Eels' added starch paying dividends
There was plenty of hype over the off-season about the players Parramatta had added to their roster but their concerning habit of letting winning positions slip has – at this early stage – looked to have been remedied by the influx of players who know how to win games.
Beau Scott, Michael Gordon, Kieran Foran and Michael Jennings were all very good for the blue and golds on Friday night and Arthur paid tribute to the squad's resilience in a tough encounter.
Jennings told NRL.com the improvement was all down to preparation.
"When I came in, the team really trained hard and everything was about discipline and they worked really hard during the pre-season. When you've got those experienced players around and the players are keeping calm, just seeing the situations we were in in those critical moments it does help having those senior players around," he said.
Although the side did well to shut their opponents out the coach was still unhappy with a late consolation try to the opposition for the second week running.
"They kept coming at us so it was a really good test for us so there were still some things there we need to improve – the last two weeks we've let two soft tries in with a couple of minutes to go which, we need to be better than that," Arthur said.
Injury news positive for both sides
Both coaches confirmed no fresh injury dramas for their squads, despite a few knocks to key players during the game.
The news was good for Tepau Moeroa (concussion), Beau Scott (hip, shoulder), Kieran Foran (hamstring) for the Eels while Dogs coach Hasler expected late withdrawal Greg Eastwood (foot) back next week.
"Yeah he should be right for next week. It was probably a call this early in the season not to risk it, he should be ok," Hasler said of Eastwood's foot injury.
Moeroa came off for a concussion check in the first half but returned to be one of his team's best, and Scott battled through hip and shoulder concerns.
"He wasn't coming off," Arthur said of Scott's concerns.
"We needed him to stay out there. We just needed him to get through that 10 minutes mark in the second half and I think he got a bump to his shoulder so we'll see how he pulls up during the week."
Foran said his troublesome hamstring was on the improve.
"It was a lot better. With the big turnaround now heading into the Tigers game [on Easter Monday] we're pretty confident it should be 100 per cent by then. It's getting better day by day," Foran said.
Eels yet to find out where they're at
Arthur said the team's tough win over the Cowboys last week would have counted for little if they didn't back it up this week against Canterbury – but said it would be next week against Wests Tigers where the squad's mental fortitude would come under the blowtorch.
That would determine whether they were comfortable with a couple of wins or ruthless enough to keep winning, he said.
"Last week would have been pointless if we didn't back that effort and that standard up tonight and I thought physically we were good. It was always going to be a test for us physically against a big strong outfit," he said.
"We've won two from three but we've got a big test next week and we'll get an even better indication when we play the Tigers in 10 days but two strong wins, do we get comfortable or do we like winning games of football, that's the question.
"We're a different team, we've still got a lot of young boys here that have been here for a couple of years but the experience we've got in Foz (Foran) and Michael Gordon and Beau Scott, I think they'll be able to make sure the boys are switched on and we don't get too carried away."