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Cowboys eye Warriors upset

Tony Webeck NRL.com Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 6:30 PM

Shaun Johnson was one of the stars of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines on day one. Photo: photosport.co.nz. Copyright: photosport.co.nz

North Queensland half Robert Lui saw first-hand how the Warriors brought the massive Eden Park crowd to life on day one of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines but believes the Cowboys have the team to upset the hometown favourites.

The Warriors, Panthers and Eels are the only undefeated teams after an energetic and frantic first day with the capacity crowd going into raptures with every touch of the football by local heroes Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins.

Johnson was as electrifying as pundits had predicted in the lead-up and the Warriors were able to confirm their pre-tournament favouritism with a 25-14 win over the Raiders followed by a 25-4 drubbing of the Sea Eagles.

The Cowboys played both of their matches – a 17-8 loss to the Cowboys and a 24-0 shutout of the Raiders – in the immediate aftermath of the Warriors' scoring frenzies but Lui is confident the Cowboys have the cattle to quiet the fun-loving Warriors faithful.

"They come to life [when the Warriors play] but we'll try to spoil the party," Lui told NRL.com. "We'll do our best. We've got the team I reckon that can beat them but it could go any way. We've just got to stick with them and hopefully that can take care of the crowd.

"We were always after the Warriors and they get a big crowd and when we were warming up we tended to watch.

"We had a good look at them, they've got talent all around the park and they're big and fast. With their two halves, we've got to turn up tomorrow like we did for the last game and hopefully it will be a good game."

Warriors powerhouse Konrad Hurrell was a constant threat and admitted that his side had spoken about the expectations from the local crowd to deliver in their latest showpiece event.

"We've talked about that before, that there's a lot of pressure there," Hurrell said.

"The other teams have put in their good teams as well so there was a lot of pressure on us but I'm glad we did our work today and won both games and glad that we made the crowd happy."

Knights half Tyrone Roberts had the honour of scoring the opening try of the tournament but it was the Sharks who registered the first victory, Nathan Gardner scoring in the dying seconds to secure a 12-11 win.

From there it was a constant procession of spectacular tries, exhilarating pieces of play and desperate defence as all 16 teams came to grips with the new format.

Brad Fittler brought down Ben Barba in defence and then brought the crowd to its feet with a runaway intercept try that sparked the Roosters to a win over the fancied Broncos team while Steve Menzies showed that he can still contribute at the elite level.

The Eels gave their fans cause to believe that the future is brighter under Brad Arthur with wins over the Roosters – NRL CEO Dave Smith's favourite moment of the day – and Bulldogs that sees them on top of Pool Green ahead of the Broncos and Roosters.

The Cowboys and Sea Eagles are striving to equal the Warriors with two wins after a mixed opening day while the Panthers are perfectly placed to top Pool Red with victories over the Storm and Dragons, a clash with the Rabbitohs all that stands between them and the No.1 seed for the quarter-finals.

Pool Blue – dubbed the 'group of death' prior to the tournament – lived up to its billing with all four teams registering one win and one loss with the two winners from Sunday's final pool games to progress to the quarter-finals.

Amidst all the excitement and colour there were some sour moments with a suspected ACL injury to Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote the most serious to come from day one.

Sharks five-eighth Todd Carney is not expected to play any further part in the tournament with a hamstring injury, Dave Taylor will be assessed by Titans medical staff for a corked knee in the morning while Michael Chee Kam (Sea Eagles), Isaac Liu (Roosters) and Curtis Sironen (Wests Tigers) will be absent from their sides for day two.