In the eyes of most, the Parramatta Eels already have a finals spot sewn up but you can always look to be better and play at the same level consistently, particularly at the back end of a season.
That is exactly what the Eels have done as they produced a relatively convincing display against a Bulldogs side criticised repeatedly for a lack of attacking options.
The Eels ran out 20-4 winners at ANZ Stadium, in the end, to strengthen their spot in the eight and improve their for and against in the process.
The win puts the Eels in the top four temporarily but it did come at a potential cost, with the extent of a hamstring injury to fullback Bevan French still unknown.
In the end, it was the class and experience of the Eels halves that made the difference as the Bulldogs lethargic attack led to almost double the number of errors as the Eels.
The decision by Des Hasler to play Chase Stanley at five-eighth pre-game was not one that worked out for him nor the side, as they slumped to yet another defeat.
The first try of the game came via an unlikely source in Eels prop Daniel Alvaro, who hit the line and used nothing but determination and leg drive to bustle his way over the line.
The Mitch Moses masterclass then took over as the live-wire first broke the line himself, finding Bevan French on the inside to score.
That was followed by a momentum of sheer composure and calmness, as he shifted from right to left, floated a pass to centre Brad Takairangi before he found Semi Radradra to score out wide.
The Bulldogs would pull back a try of their own in the second half with Brenko Lee making a surge down the right side before finding winger Marcelo Montoya to score.
That would be the only attacking highlight for the Bulldogs, however, and from there, the game became dour as the Eels took their foot off the pedal and the Bulldogs failed to produce any attacking threat.
Although the game was by no means a spectacle due to the downpour throughout the contest, Eels coach Brad Arthur said the kicking game and composure were the two elements they worked on.
“All we worked on all week was just kicking, chasing the ball and making our tackles” said the Eels coach.
“I thought the boys did a really good job of that.
“The completion and attention to detail was probably a bit better than I thought so it was a good effort.”
Eels captain Tim Mannah brings up a milestone next game with his 200th game with Arthur hopeful his side can once again lift for that clash to mark the occasion.
“It’s Tim’s 200th next week so if we can’t find a reason to play next week, we’re in trouble,” continued Arthur post-game.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler lamented his side’s poor showing in the first half that allowed the Eels to run away as they did.
“You’d have to say that we made it pretty easy for them in the first half,” said Hasler.
“For those conditions, we were just unbelievably undisciplined with the ball.
“They kicked well and I think it was about 70-30 possession but at this level you can control that and we just didn’t do it.”
Player of the Game:
3. Daniel Alvaro
2. Mitch Moses
- Siosaia Vave