Parramatta took Canberra to the cleaners last week and progressed to their first preliminary final since 2009 by doing all the things they do well.
- Parramatta’s passes and offloads significantly rose in their win over Canberra
- Prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard says such play is the club’s greatest strength
- The Eels face North Queensland in Friday night’s preliminary final
The Eels played with tremendous width, offloaded whenever they could and used their size, strength and athleticism all over the park to run the Raiders ragged in Friday’s 40-4 victory.
It begs the question, why didn’t they do the same just seven days before in a heavy loss to Penrith – a defeat which condemned them to walk a harder path to the grand final as they travel to North Queensland to play the Cowboys on Friday.
For prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard, the answer is simple.
“If you look back at that Panthers game – if you’ll excuse the French — we tried to see who had the bigger you-know-what. We tried to out-muscle them, and didn’t play to our strengths,” Campbell-Gillard said.
“We played into Penrith’s hands, they’re a quality side in terms of their defence and wrestle. If you go one-out, that’s what they want.
“We changed it around, it was a pretty easy fix, and we did that really well.
“It was still a bit patchy in defence sometimes, but leaving a quality side like Canberra with four points? We’re happy with that.”
Parramatta’s return to form comes through in the numbers.
They passed the ball 272 times and recorded 19 offloads, well up on the 210 passes and 12 offloads they tallied against the Panthers.
They’ll need to play a similarly up-tempo style against the Cowboys if they’re to progress to their first grand final in 13 years.
“That’s our strength. That’s what we’re good at. If you look at the Penrith game, we didn’t have that,” Campbell-Gillard said.
“When there’s some ball-movement between middles in that centre third, our offloads and selective offloads are going to hit the mark.”
‘We’re happy, but not too happy’
Given North Queensland have never lost a home final and Eels coach Brad Arthur has opted for just two genuine middle forwards on the bench, a curious call given the tropical conditions, it won’t be easy.
But Campbell-Gillard is sure the Eels won’t rest on their laurels.
Despite finally breaking through to the preliminary finals after four exits in week two in five years, Parramatta believe they’re yet to hit their full potential.
“(North Queensland) are a quality side and they really turned their season around. They’ve been one of the best sides all year and they have strike all over the park. We’re looking forward to it,” Campbell-Gillard said.
“We’re happy, but not too happy. Everyone who has been in this position wants to go further. The job isn’t done yet.”