Eels’ NRL rise founded on defence

Parramatta have emerged as the NRL’s premier defensive unit over the opening month of the NRL premiership and genuine title contenders to boot.

The Eels pre-season recruitment drive that netted Kieran Foran, Michael Jennings, Beau Scott and Michael Gordon amped up expectations 2016 could finally be the year the western Sydney giants returned to finals football for the first time since their 2009 grand final loss.

Parramatta have conceded just 39 points during the first four rounds, including an 8-0 defeat of Wests Tigers on Monday at ANZ Stadium.

“I am very pleased we managed to keep them to nil,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.

“I thought we played tough, the effort was there. We are well off where we need to be with the footy.

“But if we keep turning up for each other like that, I will be happy.

“It’s only round four at the moment, but our defence is great. It needs to be because our attack isn’t.

“We have added some quality players that come with some toughness.”

A Junior Paulo four-pointer midway through the second half pushed the Eels lead to a match-winning 8-0 after Gordon landed a penalty goal early in the first half in a game dominated by defence and spluttering attack from both sides at times.

That the Eels were able to largely nullify the influence of the game’s leading attacking player, Tigers fullback James Tedesco, spoke volumes, according to skipper Kieran Foran.

Heading into round four, the Tigers had been the second-best offensive unit in the NRL behind South Sydney.

“If we defend like that we are going to give ourselves every opportunity to stay in the contest,” Foran said.

“It’s nice to start the season the way we did. They are a very good attacking side, they throw plenty at you.”

In his first match this year after overcoming a knee injury, hooker Robbie Farah said the Tigers failed to take their chances in attack.

“We got through a lot of work in defence because our completions were down again. We squandered our chances,” he said.

Two try-saving efforts from Tedesco on Semi Radradra and Michael Jennings kept the home side in the contest.

“It was really positive the way we defended,” Tigers coach Jason Taylor said.

“We have to control our attack better but Parramatta deserve credit their line moved really fast and put us under pressure.”

Eels prop Tim Mannah suffered a shoulder injury and could set for a stint on the sidelines.

Tigers forward Kyle Lovett was put on report for a 53rd-minute high shot on Kenny Edwards.

Eels forward Manu Ma’u could also be in the sights of the match review committee after being reported for dangerous contact on Josh Aloiai.

The win before 36,112 fans gives the Eels a 3-1 start to the year. The Tigers are 2-2 over the first month of the season.

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