The NRL’s ambitious push to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown has paid off after attracting its biggest television audience for a regular-season game in more than six years.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur was ecstatic with his team’s 8-2 shutout of Canterbury in their NRL season-opener on Thursday night.
But he was far less enthused about their attack.
Considered premiership contenders in the pre-season, the Eels failed to make a line break and could only muster one try against a determined Bulldogs defence.
“I thought we’d be better with the ball,” Arthur said post-game.
“But I was really happy with the defence. We kept turning up. I was really happy with the attitude, I was really happy with their effort. It’s Round 1.
“So I thought we were a bit clunky and rusty in the trials with the ball as well.”
The impressive defensive display was the second time in their past three NRL games that the Eels have held an opposition team try-less.
They held Brisbane to zero in last year’s elimination final, before being held scoreless themselves when they were knocked out of the finals the next week.
However, Arthur was pleased with how his side was able to put their frustrations in attack behind them and get the job done in the second half.
He pointed out how they lost a similar game against the same team last year.
“It’s something we need to get better at, but the pleasing thing is I’m sitting here and we managed to get better in the second half and it turn it around,” he said.
“Whereas last year, we didn’t. We couldn’t capitalise on any opportunities that we had at the back end of the game last year.
“I’d rather the game that we had to play tonight, than walking off the field and being in front by 20.”
New recruits Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson enjoyed strong club debuts, with the latter making 39 tackles.
“They were solid. Reg’s intent is really good, we’ve just got to harness that to make sure he’s effective all the time,” Arthur said.
“The intent was good from both of them. I think that (Matterson) was a nice, calm, influencing figure in the second half.”