Warriors 26 def Parramatta Eels 18
TIPPED by many as premiership dark horses at the start of the season, the Warriors showed why with a dominant first half display to overcome Parramatta at Mt Smart Stadium.
Fired up by a minute’s silence for lost team-mate Sonny Fai and with captain Steve Price playing his 300th first grade game, the Warriors flew out of the blocks to lead 12-0 shortly before the break and 26-6 shortly after the break before the Eels threatened a late comeback.
While Parramatta barely touched the ball for the first 20 minutes, the home side camped themselves on the tryline and were rewarded with tries to Joel Moon and Russell Packer as their outside backs ran riot.
The Eels eventually opened their 2009 account through Eric Grothe, who took advantage of a tremendous Ben Smith run to score out wide.
But the injection of Lance Hohaia proved too much for a tired Eels side as the speedy utility crossed either side of half-time to end the game as a contest.
Late tries to Parramatta pair Jarryd Hayne and Krisnan Inu gave the scoreline a hint of respectability but they never really looked like taking home the two points despite yet another impressive display from lock Feleti Mateo.
The Game Swung When… Warriors utility Lance Hohaia was injected late in the first half.
A try to Parramatta’s Eric Grothe had narrowed the deficit to 12-6 but two tries to Hohaia ensured there would be no comeback. The first saw him take advantage from some quick hands and a Nathan Fien flick pass to rocket through a gap untouched and score alongside the posts. And two minutes after the break he was at it again, slicing through the tackles of Brett Finch and Luke Burt to score directly from a scrum.
Who Was Hot… While Hohaia’s presence proved all too much for Parramatta, it was the Warriors’ forwards who set the tone for the game with a dominant first-half display. Riding on the back of captain Steve Price and an impressive performance from youngster Russell Packer, the Warriors didn’t give their rivals a sniff early on and could have led by more were it not for some poor finishing.
As it was, they jumped out to an early 12-0 lead and had the Eels playing catch-up for the remainder of the game.
Parramatta prop Fuifui Moimoi tried his best to stand up to the Warriors’ assault with a series of massive hits.
Who Was Not… It was a case of rocks or diamonds for the two men most Parramatta eyes were fixed on – Jarryd Hayne and Eric Grothe.
While each scored a try and enjoyed some classy touches, they also made some crucial errors, with Grothe dropping the ball that led to Hohaia’s second try from a downfield bomb and another from a kick later in the second half.
Hayne also had a case of the fumbles and gave away a series of crucial penalties to piggy-back the Warriors out of their own territory.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… When the Eels are hot they’re on fire and Krisnan Inu’s 60th-minute try was an example of what the side is capable of when they get it right.
After some razzle-dazzle saw them carry the ball towards the Warriors’ tryline, Feleti Mateo threw an audacious, behind-his-back flick pass in the tackle that found Inu and space and allowed him to step his way across the tryline.
Bad Boys… Eels Nathan Hindmarsh and Wellar Hauraki both were slapped with Dangerous Contact charges but will be available next week given early guilty pleas.
Injuries… Lance Hohaia (Warriors) – knee, three weeks; Ben Matulino (Warriors) – ankle, 1-2 weeks; Michael Luck (Warriors) – concussion.
Ref Watch… The two-referees experiment took a few hits in Auckland, with some at-times bizarre decisions from referees Ashley Klein and Alan Shortall.
Parramatta fans were particularly riled by the decision to put prop Fuifui Moimoi on report for a hard but seemingly legitimate hit on a dazed Micheal Luck, while both sides found themselves heavily penalised throughout the game.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Lance Hohaia (Warriors): Scored two tries and caused Parramatta all sorts of headaches with his lightning speed off the mark; 2 points – Steve Price (Warriors): Ran for a game-high 188 metres and set the tone early-on for his fellow Warriors forwards; 1 point – Fuifui Moimoi (Eels): By far the most impressive forward for the visitors, he refused to take a backwards step and made real impact when he came off the bench.
Warriors 26 (L Hohaia 2, J Moon, R Packer tries; D Kemp 5 goals) def Eels 18 (E Grothe, J Hayne, K Inu tries; L Burt 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Crowd: 17,447.