“We need to be mentally tougher.”
That was the blunt assessment from Parramatta Eels head coach, Brad Arthur after his side gave up a 30-6 lead against the North Queensland Cowboys on Monday night.
The Eels held their 24 point lead until the 57th minute when Matthew Wright crossed for the Cowboys.
What followed will haunt Eels fans for the rest of the season.
A Johnathan Thurston inspired 11 minutes of madness saw the Cowboys pile on 30 unanswered points to put the away side ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
Back-rower, Gavin Cooper bagged a seven minute hat-trick as the Eels were blown out of the water rather emphatically by a Cowboys side that, up until then, had presented little threat in attack.
Arthur was incredibly disappointed in his charges after the game, saying they needed to apply themselves for the full eighty minutes.
“That’s a game we definitely threw away. We’re a 70 minute team. We can’t win games of footy playing for 70 minutes,” he said.
“We’ve got to learn to play for 80 minutes. That 80 minutes doesn’t have to all be quality but you’ve got to stay in the game mentally.”
“We had players who just removed themselves out of that game for 10 minutes.”
It’s the third game in the space of a month the Eels have thrown away. Against the Melbourne Storm they lost in extra time whilst they dominated South Sydney but a number of crucial errors in goal kicking saw them fall short.
Hooker, Nathan Peats said the side was well aware of the threat posed by Thurston but failed to close down the dynamic playmaker.
“We spoke about how Thurston plays and we knew they were going to keep fighting to the end. We can talk all we want but we obviously didn’t do what we spoke about,” he said.
“We allowed them to roll us 100 metres and four tries off kicks, it’s pretty pathetic if you ask me.”
There is some concern over the fitness of captain, Tim Mannah, who went down in the 70th minute with a head injury in trying to make a tackle.
Mannah was taken from the field on a medi-cab and will be monitored throughout the week.
The Eels travel to Melbourne next week and will face a Storm outfit minus Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Will Chambers.