After leading 30-4 at the break, the Eels were outscored 6-4 in an underwhelming second half that left more questions than answers despite a 34-10 win.
Johns labelled the second-half showing “terrible”, and said it was a prime example of why the Eels were a notch below the league’s real premiership threats.
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“I think (Eels coach Brad Arthur) would realise his team’s not there,” he said on Nine’s coverage of the match.
“Some really good signs, but if they’re going to challenge for a title, we spoke about the word ‘ruthless’. We’ve spoken about how ruthless other teams can be.
“They were on the canvas, Penrith, and they’ve let them back up and given them life again.
“Down to 12 men, when you’re up by 30 at half-time, you want to beat them by 60. You want to make a real statement.”
Johns was backed up by Smith, whose Storm teams over the last decade routinely ran up mammoth scores on teams who were in similar situations to Penrith on Friday night.
“I reckon Brad Arthur will be disappointed with their second 40. I really do,” Smith told Nine’s Macca’s Golden Point.
“That was a golden opportunity for Parramatta to really refine their footy, to really gain some confidence with ball in hand.
“Those opportunities where we’ve seen Maika Sivo score in the 78th minute, they were there all second half, but they just refused to pass the ball and it looked like they were trying to finish the game off at that scoreline.
“But in those situations playing against 12 men, you’ve just got to be a lot more ruthless and a bit more savage when you’ve got the ball. Penrith ended up winning the second half 6-4.”
While Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said the Eels could be encouraged by holding the high-scoring Panthers to just 10 points, Parramatta’s players themselves realised the missed opportunity.
“They came out in the second half and they were on fire,” star halfback Mitchell Moses told Nine after the match.
“They were running harder than us and tackling harder than us and it’s a simple game.
“We’re a little bit disappointed. I think we were trying to do it by ourselves in the second half and we just had to find the last tackle, kick to the corners and build pressure, and we didn’t really do that.”
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“We certainly needed a mentality shift in that second half,” prop Junior Paulo added.
“Sometimes when you’re up you can fall into that cruise mode.
“We can’t afford to start the way we did in the second half and finish that way.”
The Eels climbed to sixth position on the ladder with the win, with a 12-7 record and a percentage of +38, and will face the Manly Sea Eagles in round 21.
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