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Arthur pressure mounts as Parra fail to make domination count against battling Broncos

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10th May, 2024
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The pressure continues to rise on Brad Arthur at Parramatta after his side slumped to a 30-14 defeat to Brisbane despite a mountain of possession and field position.

The Eels have now lost three in a row and five from six games ahead of a meeting with Melbourne at Magic Round next week.

The coach’s future is under discussion and his team are doing little to convince the higher-ups that things will change any time soon.

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Arthur’s side were missing Mitch Moses – who will return next week – and Clint Gutherson, but faced a Broncos without Adam Reynolds and were given all the ball they could ever want to make a breakthrough. They failed.

In the first half, the Broncos could barely cross halfway yet led comfortably at the break: in fact, Reece Walsh had scored and Selwyn Cobbo had one wiped by the Bunker before Brisbane even had a tackle in Parramatta’s half.

Their third try, just before the break, summed it up as Parra spilled the ball in attack and saw Deine Mariner race 80m against the run of play to score.

“We were clawing our way back in so it can be deflating coming in at half time and a boost for the opposition,” said Arthur.

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“The body language and the signs in the dressing sheds were positive because we felt like we played better footy, we just weren’t in front on the scoreboard.

“We need to make sure that we come every weekend with that mindset, to back ourselves and play a bit of footy, to ice those moments that are letting us down.”

Ezra Mam set up two while playing more of a halfback’s role in Reynolds’ absence, allowing an easy second game at NRL level for Josh Rogers in the 7 jumper.

Once in the lead, it never looked like Brisbane were ever going to let it slip. They lost Billy Walters to an arm injury but never faltered and, in the end, accumulated enough points to win with relative ease.

“It was good in patches,” said Kevin Walters.

“I thought Parramatta played some good footy and were unlucky a couple of times, they could have crossed the line. Their offloading was causing us a fair bit of grief with our defence.

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“When we had to score we picked up some points that was very helpful throughout the game.

“Most of our tries were off no structure, just playing footy, so we got a bit lucky on a few occasions I thought.

“Our defence was really good. Our tryline defence – there was one slip up from Ezra but otherwise it was pretty good, which I was happy with.”

Talagi’s strange night

Parramatta went in with Blaize Talagi at the back and Ethan Sanders, in game 2 of his NRL career, in the halves.

Talagi had a night that, at best, could be described as up and down.

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He was caught out several times defensively: in the first half by Deine Mariner, who skinned the fullback one-on-one with some fast footwork and then in the second by Mam, who saw him in the line and chipped in behind to score.

Before either of them, the rookie had been incredibly lucky as he spilled a bomb straight to Selwyn Cobbo for a try, only for an offside to be found that got him off the hook.

Yet in attack he threatened, with a step on Mam that prized open the Broncos defence and another late on to boot that, again, left the five eighth standing, albeit the Bunker later look it back for an obstruction.

It’s probably not surprising that young fullback finds it easier to attack than defend, but still, there’ll be no hesitations from opponents when it comes to sending up high balls in the future.

Sanders’ performance was a lot less eventful.

While he’s predominantly been a halfback coming through, since coming into grade he has definitively played a five eighth, parked on one side of the field and playing second fiddle with the boot to Brown.

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This might be to help him settle in, but bar a few darts, he hasn’t been a running threat and has played too far from the line to properly threaten.

Everything good the Eels did happened on the other side with Dylan Brown, but even then, the Kiwi international is clearly limited by having to do all the organising work that he’d rather leave to Mitch Moses.

It begs the question of whether Arthur might consider giving Sanders more to do in future games.

It’s likely the coach would prefer to ease him into the NRL, but as it stands, he has a five eighth who is a better halfback and a halfback who is a better five eighth.

Mitch Moses is back next week, and not a moment too soon.

Was this Brisbane or Parra?

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That first half was slightly mad, not least because the Eels created as many tries for Brisbane as they did for themselves.

It’s not new that Parra’s good ball attack is bad when Moses isn’t there, but it has never been so badly exposed as here.

When Walsh raced away for the first try after 17 minutes, the Eels had enjoyed 82% of the territory and 57% of the time in possession, including three sets on the Broncos’ goalline.

While at least some of the issues were with the attack, plenty of credit can be given to the defence.

Brisbane don’t always get to show how resilient they are given how good they are at not having to do extended bouts of defending, but there was ample opportunity here to face up against a big powerful pack and turn them away.

While Parra generated a lot of offloads, as is their wont, the Broncos were consistently able to scramble and remove space when it occurred.

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Moreover, on the occasions when the ball broke, they pounced and returned it to the house. Two tries from turnovers showed that in bold type.

Obviously, this wasn’t Parra’s best attack and there are key outs in Moses and Clint Gutherson.

But there was still a whole heap of defending to do to give Brisbane a platform on which to build, and they did it very well indeed.

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