Parramatta coach Brad Arthur says there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic despite the Eels just missing out on an NRL finals spot.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur says he’s disappointed but proud of his players, despite their failure to lock in an NRL finals spot.
The Eels had their destiny in their own hands after a stirring come-from-behind victory over Manly two weeks ago moved them into the top eight.
But they were unable to finish the job and were defeated in their final two games against lowly Newcastle and Canberra to end the season on 28 points – their highest tally since 2009.
After Brisbane’s loss to Melbourne on Friday, the Eels needed to beat Ricky Stuart’s Raiders and hope Penrith beat the Warriors on Sunday night to creep into the finals.
But Canberra rose to the occasion on Saturday, producing a fine performance to win 33-20 and end their poor season on a high with a third successive victory.
Trailing 32-6 with 20 minutes remaining, the Eels threatened to pull off the impossible with three quickfire tries, but despite throwing everything at the hosts in the final stages, the Green Machine held firm.
“We’re disappointed how it finished. There were a couple of concentration lapses in defence but for the majority of the game we defended OK,” Arthur said.
“We just have to learn to concentrate for the full 80 minutes.”
Arthur has done a remarkable job in his first season as head coach. The 12 victories this year were more than they won in 2012 and 2013 combined, and Arthur said there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the club’s direction.
“At 32-6 down they still had plenty of fight and kept going and going,” he said.
“We’ve had 12 wins and 12 losses this year and although we’re not comfortable with the way it finished, it’s been a positive season.”
Eels captain Jarryd Hayne, who led the second-half fightback with two tries, said the team had learnt a significant amount in a year when they beat heavyweight rivals Sydney, Brisbane, Manly, North Queensland and Canterbury.
“We’re a bit inexperienced and struggle to finish teams off or start well, but we will learn from it. We’re a young team and we will get better,” Hayne said.
“We created a lot of opportunities … everything went against us, we pushed the pass and everything they did seemed to come off for them.
“But these kind of scenarios make you a better player … we have young Tepai (Moreroa), Junior Paulo has had a breakout year, Will Hopoate is in his first year back, Corey Norman and Chrissy (Sandow) are working well together.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said his side’s defensive effort was the best since his arrival at the club.
“They threw a hell of lot at us, especially in the second half. There were some real tough periods of the game,” Stuart said.
“The way we stuck to our structures was terrific.”