Sunday, 8 July 2012
Parramatta coach Stephen Kearney was at a loss to explain his side's woeful first-half performance against Manly as further pressure mounted on the Kiwi Test mentor after Sunday's 40-24 NRL defeat.
Touted as one of the best young minds in the game when he took on the job, the World Cup-winning coach has endured a torrid time since replacing Daniel Anderson at the start of the 2011 season.
But his side's opening 40 minutes was a new low as the reigning premiers charged into a 34-0 halftime lead, with former Eels junior David Williams becoming the first player in 60 years to score four tries before halftime.
A Brett Stewart effort just after the break stretched the lead to 40-0 before Manly clocked off, allowing Parramatta to score four tries, which did nothing more that paper over the cracks for a side that looks destined for the wooden spoon.
A furious Eels supporter hurled abuse at Kearney from the stand as the coach walked to the dressing room at halftime, with his side staring humiliation in the face against their long-time bitter rivals.
As he has so often this season, the likeable 40-year-old looked a picture of frustration as he tried to explain why his side are struggling to do even the basics.
"It was an ordinary day and it could have been really ordinary if the lads didn't show some fight in the second half," Kearney said.
"From the first three sets, there were two play-the-ball errors and a dropped ball.
"I thought we were competing with them early but you just can't give them cheap possession and we found ourselves in a big hole after that."
Kearney said he didn't need to read the riot act to his players at halftime and would have to take some positives from what they produced in the second period.
"I didn't need to say a great deal," he said.
"We were embarrassed.
"It was just an attitude adjustment in the second half. They allowed us to come into the game but we had to take the opportunity and I thought the lads fought hard."
Things won't get any easier for Kearney, whose side take on in-form Canterbury next Friday before facing ladder-leading Melbourne a week later.
And despite the issues surrounding his team, Kearney insists he's not started to doubt his ability as a coach or whether he's getting his message through to his players.
"I don't look at it like that. The first six sets we had were fundamental errors," he said.
"I'm not going to say 'oh shit, the guys aren't listening'. And start questioning whether they're listening to me. That's not an issue."
Manly coach Geoff Toovey was disappointed with how his side played in the second half, but said their first-half display showed they're a force to be reckoned with.
"Rightly or wrongly, our players individually made some poor decisions and made the wrong option," Toovey said.
"I was disappointed for our fans really.
"But I thought for periods of the game, we were outstanding - particularly in the first half.
"We just went to sleep in the second half.
"I'm not saying it's acceptable, but I am saying that we're a good team and showed plenty of good football today."