NRL Round 2: Brad Arthur laments missed chances, Clint Gutherson decision in high-scoring Sharks clash

Eels coach Brad Arthur has lamented his side’s missed opportunities against Cronulla – but believes their upcoming stretch of games will present a new challenge for last year’s grand finalists.

In a high-scoring thriller at CommBank Stadium on Friday night, Parramatta blew the lead on two occasions to fall short 30-26 against a fast-finishing Sharks outfit. 

Mitchell Moses crossed for a double in his 200th NRL game, as did hulking winger Maika Sivo, but two missed conversions from the off-contract halfback proved the difference in the nail-biting affair.

Waqa Blake bombed a late try-scoring opportunity for the hosts, but there were a number of moments throughout the 80 minutes that left the Eels coach disappointed – especially with the likes of Penrith and Roosters on the horizon. 

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“We had our opportunities and controlled our field position – a couple of moments we didn’t get right, which in the end hurt us,” he said.

“Effort was good, we were there to the death. We scored five tries, but you can’t have five tries put on you and 30 points scored against you and be happy with the performance.

“I thought the effort was that and we need to make sure we keep coming with the effort. Some big moments at crucial times cost us.

“It’s not ideal but it’s a good challenge for us. Over the last few seasons, we have started the season really well, so this is a good challenge and we will learn a bit about our group.

“We learned plenty about them tonight, they were still trying to fight and work hard to try and win the game at the back-end there and we put ourselves in a position with 10 seconds to go we might have been able to.

“We have got some tough games coming up…we will find out plenty about us.”

Parramatta’s defensive lapses and crucial missed opportunities came back to bite them for a second week in a row, with a golden-point loss to Melbourne and Friday night’s defeat seeing them slump to 0-2 to start the year.

A frustrating moment with the Eels in the lead early in the game saw Clint Gutherson forced off by the independent doctor for a HIA, but Arthur wasn’t making any excuses despite the Sharks scoring two quick tries while the skipper was off the field. 

“It’s part of the game and we have to deal with it a bit better,” he said.

“Whether he is out there or not, he would help with our defensive structures, but some of the tries they scored throughout the whole period of the game were just soft – they didn’t have to work too hard for a lot of them.

“We’ve got to cut them out.”

Parramatta’s two early-season losses will not do much to instil confidence for their long-suffering supporters’ hopes of a premiership in 2023 – but one player who can’t be faulted is new recruit J’maine Hopgood.

The lock-forward was in everything against the Sharks, finishing with 168 run metres and 46 tackles, as well two try assists through the middle of the field.

“He was good again tonight – I said in the pre-season, he just needed an opportunity to get out on the field and I still think once he has played 10-15 games straight, he will be better for us again,” Arthur said.

“He does some good things with the ball and works hard defensively…there are a couple of things he needs to tidy up from tonight, but he is going really well.”

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