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Clint Gutherson leads the Eels onto the field.

Eels coach Brad Arthur is happy with his side's first effort of 2020 but was surprised by their sloppy effort with the ball particularly in the first half of their 8-2 win over the Bulldogs.

The Eels made 14 errors, mostly in the first half, and needed a fortuitous late try to break a 2-2 deadlock and claim a win against a Canterbury side that had been under siege after a week of negative headlines following two players being stood down over an incident in Port Macquarie.

Arthur said he was expecting the Bulldogs to be as tough and resilient as they were, especially given their strong finish to 2019 in which they beat Parramatta 12-6 at Bankwest Stadium in a similar type of contest.

"We knew they would be, they did exactly what they did to us last year – dragged us in for real dog fight," he said.

"In the first half we lacked patience and got frustrated, the second half we settled a bit, completed a bit better and tried to build some pressure we just didn’t get great opportunities in good field position.

"You see how they finished season last year, they spent all pre-season working hard like every team. We saw how they played in the Nines, that was enough to see they were going to come with plenty of effort."

Match Highlights: Eels v Bulldogs

Parramatta's attack needed some improvement but the defence provided a positive foundation, Arthur said.

"The pleasing thing is we managed to get better in the second half and turn it round," he said.

"Last year we didn't couldn't capitalise on any opportunities in the back end of the game.

"I'd rather a game like that tonight than walking off the field and being in front by 20.

"It's round one so I thought we were a bit clunky and rusty and we were in the trials as well. We changed our focus on defence so as long as we can give ourselves an opportunity with our completions and ball in hand."

He described the efforts of new faces Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson as solid.

"Reg's intent was really good, he's got to harness that to make sure it's effective but the intent was good from both," Arthur said.

"I think [Matterson] was a nice calm influencing figure in the second half."