A day of surprises kicks off Auckland's big weekend

The Sharks, Sandow and surprise packets were the order of the day for Saturday's action at the NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park.

Not tipped to be among the competition's front-runners in the build-up to the tournament, Cronulla finished day one with the best attacking and defensive records, scoring 48 points and giving up just eight.

With their spot in the finals already confirmed the Sharks will take on the Roosters on Sunday, and do so fresh from a 31-4 demolition of the Broncos.

But despite their impressive start to the tournament, captain Wade Graham didn't want a bar of talk that his side had assumed the favourites tag.

"I don't really read into it too much. It's Nines, it's a different brand of footy," Graham said.

"We're just getting out there and trying our best.

"Our young guys are having a lot of fun, so that's what we're trying to get out of it."

The back-rower was full of praise for the 43,054 fans who turned up full of voice.

"[The atmosphere] is great, Auckland's great," Graham said.

"They're wonderful, they support every team. I know the majority are Warriors fans but they get behind every team and I'm just hoping we can put on a great brand of footy for them.

"I've been both years now, and the city really turns it on for us."

As with last year's tournament the Warriors received a standing ovation every time they entered the field, with fans flooding in from the food and drink stalls to watch the 'home' side beat the Titans and suffer a shock loss to the Raiders.

That defeat could have dire consequences too, with even a victory on Sunday over the Tigers not guaranteeing the Warriors a spot in the finals.

Another big hit with the punters was the first of three matches between the Kiwi Ferns and the Jillaroos.

Right from the opening carry, where Kiwi prop Krystal Murray torpedoed herself with reckless abandon at the Australian line, the game was a no-quarter-given affair.

The Kiwi Ferns came back from an early deficit to score the winner in the dying minutes through Janna Vaughan, who was making her national debut.

"That was my debut for the Kiwi Ferns and my first try, so it was pretty exciting," Vaughan said.

"I was screaming for the ball and trying to be calm at the same time. The girls responded, we got it through the hands quickly and I put a bit of a fend on, thankfully we got the try."

Parramatta's captain for the weekend, Chris Sandow, was arguably the most impressive player in the Nines tournament through the first two rounds.

He controlled play well and came up with a crucial long kick which set the Eels up for a win against the Knights in the dying seconds.

With the Eels clocking up the second-most points of any team across day one, many have Sandow down as the favourite to take out the tournament MVP if we can replicate that form tomorrow.

The Warriors' clashes may have been the most anticipated of the day, but it was the Sea Eagles and Dragons who produced Saturday's best game.

Manly came back from a 15-0 deficit to lead the match with two minutes remaining, before Fijian flyer Eto Nabuli ruined the dream comeback by expertly snaking his body around the sideline to score the winner and ensure the Dragons headed into day two with a win.

Will the dark horse Sharks and Tigers continue their unbeaten form on day two? Who will stand up individually when it counts most? And can the Warriors avoid an embarrassing early exit from their home tournament?

It's all up for grabs on Sunday at Eden Park.