Eels 12 Bulldogs 46
Josh Morris of the Bulldogs scores a try. Photo: Getty Images
DES Hasler has turned a one-dimensional Bulldogs side that struggled last year into the game's new entertainers.
After taking charge of a team that failed to make the finals the previous two seasons and had just one new face in English prop James Graham, Hasler had to do something.
Setting sail for the tryline ... Dene Halatau of the Bulldogs takes a pass to race away to score. Photo: Wolter Peeters
So while Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett spent the off-season putting the players at his new club through defensive drills, Hasler encouraged his forwards to develop their offloading skills.
Without a playmaker of the calibre of Johnathan Thurston, Benji Marshall, Cooper Cronk or Daly Cherry-Evans, Hasler turned to his bigger men to create the attacking opportunities.
Sam Kasiano, Graham and Frank Pritchard were transformed into ball players and the results have been little short of amazing.
After nine rounds, Canterbury lead the NRL for offloads - averaging more than 15 a match between rounds two and seven.
Last night, they made 22 in a razzle-dazzle display that produced five tries in a 16-minute period either side of half-time.
The biggest beneficiaries have been fullback Ben Barba, who was arguably Canterbury's only real attacking spark last season, five-eighth Josh Reynolds and centre Josh Morris.
After a career low tally of just eight tries last season, Morris has already scored the same number this year after crossing for a hat-trick last night to force his way back into Origin reckoning.
Surely Reynolds must also come under consideration for the Blues utility role made vacant by the season-ending injury to Knights skipper Kurt Gidley after another five-star performance in just his 19th NRL game.
Reynolds also grabbed one of Canterbury's eight tries but the real heroes of the 46-12 victory were Kasiano, Graham and Pritchard, who repeatedly set up opportunities for the team's smaller men with perfectly timed passes and offloads.
On some occasions, the trio even combined as the Bulldogs punched holes through the middle of Parramatta's brittle defence.
Remarkably, the Eels led 12-4 until the 34th minute and had looked to be the better team after completing their first 13 sets of tackles.
But their first mistake, an incorrect play-the-ball by prop Mitchell Allgood, signalled the beginning of the end for Parramatta and the Bulldogs ran in three tries to take a 22-12 lead at half-time.
Morris scored first in the 34th minute after a Kasiano offload put halfback Kris Keating into the clear and the Kiwi prop then combined with Graham to set up Dene Halatau's 40th-minute try.
The second half was an error-fest by the Eels and when Morris pounced on a Keating grubber to score his third try in the 50th minute, after Kasiano had put the Parramatta junior into space, the game was as good over.
Star Eels recruit Chris Sandow had only just come on the field two minutes earlier, after Reynolds's try, and he was unable to spark a team that had gone from good to bad as quickly as they had recovered from a 31-0 deficit to lose 31-30 to Wests Tigers last Sunday.
Parramatta's problems are far deeper and it is clear that coach Stephen Kearney must continue with a clean-out of the playing roster to rebuild the club.
Of the 17 players who took the field for the Eels last night, five are either already 30 or will be before the end of this season, including captain Nathan Hindmarsh, who again spent a large stint on the sideline.
However, Parramatta's best players this season have been their rookies, led by winger Ken Sio, prop Matt Ryan and second-rower Joseph Paulo, and they are the future upon which Kearney must build.
BULLDOGS 46 (J Morris 3 B Goodwin D Halatau T Lafai J Reynolds J Wright tries B Goodwin 7 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 12 (R Morgan K Sio tries L Burt 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Brett Suttor, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 28,214.