Mitchell Pearce is hoping Parramatta may have delivered the Newcastle Knights a timely back-handed favour by “putting us back in our place” during Saturday night’s trial at Maitland.
The Eels flexed their considerable muscle to over-power the Knights and expose some home truths in a lopsided contest where the 26-6 final scoreline flattered Newcastle.
Knights coach Nathan Brown admitted he expected better.
Pearce summed up the feeling better than anyone.
“When you think you are going alright, the devil comes to get you,”he said.
“What the Eels have done is given us a real nudge to let us know exactly where we are at.
“Footy can be pretty humbling. There has been a lot of buzz around and the first trial [against Melbourne], we went well and we’ve been confident in ourselves. Confident in the way we have trained.
“But they [the Eels] put us back in our place tonight and the key for us now is to learn from it.”
The signs were good early after the Knights, fielding nine new players, posted first points when winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossed in the corner after collecting a Connor Watson cut-out pass.
But as the game wore on, the power running from the Eels pack and the finesse of their playmakers Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman and fullback Bevan French off the back of their forward dominance took its toll.
Mistakes under fatigue and poor discipline only added to what turned out to be an uncomfortable night for the home side in oppressive conditions.
“We had a good start and went set for set with them in the first half for a bit and built some pressure,”Pearce said
“But then some errors and penalties put us under pressure and in the second half, we were probably twice as bad with our discipline.
“We were pretty fatigued there and let in some soft tries so it wasn’t great.
“They have a good side and they won the power battle in the early tackles with their yardage. That put us on the back foot and we weren’t able to wrest that control back from them.
“They are a quality team and have left us with a lot to work on.”
Pearce admitted the performance was a reality check for the new-look Knights.
“I think we may have been a bit guilty of thinking we would come out and it would just instantly gel like it has at training,”he said.
“It reminds you what footy is about. You have to complete and do all the shitty things right and build pressure and if you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter how flash your attack is
“Defence and building pressure are the keys – it really is that simple. I think we only had three good ball sets the whole game.”
While the halfback claimed after the game “everyone has their head down”, there were some positives; .
While centre Tautau Moga had a poor night, prop Herman Ese’ese certainly cemented a starting spot for the season opener against Manly while both specialist hookers Slade Griffin and Danny Levi played strongly.