Warriors start fast to see off Eels
The Warriors have fought off a brave comeback from the Parramatta Eels to win their opening home game of the 2015 Telstra Premiership season 29-16 on Saturday afternoon.
After leading 22-0 at half-time the New Zealanders were outplayed and outscored three tries to one in the second 40, but did just enough to avoid an embarrassing collapse in front of 14,112 at Mt Smart Stadium.
Much of the good work done by Andrew McFadden's men came at the expense of the Eels' makeshift right-edge pairing of Ryan Morgan and debutant John Folau, who leaked four tries down their corridor throughout the afternoon.
For the hosts, veteran second-rower Ryan Hoffman and rookie centre Solomone Kata were strong, coming up with three tries between them.
Warriors hookers Thomas Leuluai and Nathan Friend, celebrating his 200th first-grade game, also made the most of some awful Parramatta marker defence, enjoy a day of free running from the ruck.
At the quarter mark of the match the Warriors were averaging a point a minute, racing out to a 24-0 lead thanks to tries from Hoffman, local juniors Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea and winger Manu Vatuvei.
The Kiwi outfit were executing with precision in attack, with Chad Townsend assuming a larger than usual role and feeding his deadly left side plenty of early ball.
They may not have scored again in the first period but the Warriors were cruising at the break, enjoying 70 per cent of the possession to run for almost double Parramatta's yardage tally, while having to defend eight fewer sets than their opponents.
Playing inside Vatuvei for the first three weeks of his NRL career looked to have rubbed off on Kata in the early stages of the second half, with the youngster climbing high to register a double after bringing down an accurate Townsend kick.
As the final half hour approached Sam Tomkins left the field and went straight up the tunnel with a knee injury, and with that the New Zealanders experienced a crisis of confidence.
If the home side were nervous after Reece Robinson and David Gower scored in quick succession on 55 minutes they would have been shaking in their boots when Robinson dashed 60 metres for a spectacular try in the corner, making it a two-score game once again.
At 28-16 the momentum was with Parramatta, and in a testament to how serious they were taking the Eels' comeback the Warriors had to settle for a Shaun Johnson drop goal with seven minutes remaining in order to ensure the two points.
The 29-16 victory ensured the Warriors started their home campaign with a victory, but the second half would not have pleased coach McFadden whose mind must have drifted back to the Round 1 collapse which resulted in a loss to the Knights.
"They are obviously a really gritty side Parramatta, they came back at us in the second half," McFadden said after the win.
"I think we got the wobbles a little bit there, but a bit of that is credit to the opposition. They got a bit of momentum and put us under pressure.
"We had a few changes in that second half losing Sam, and we probably didn't handle that as well as we could have.
"But certainly I am happy with the way we finished it out."
For Parramatta the job gets no easier at home next week, taking on defending premiers South Sydney and possibly doing so with an even larger injury toll.
At various stages in the match hookers Nathan Peats and Issac De Gois took heavy knocks, while Will Hopoate and Joseph Paulo also found themselves in the wars.
Warriors 29 (Kata 2, Hoffman, Lolohea, Vatuvei tries; Johnson 4 goals; Johnson 1 field goal) def. Eels 16 (Takairangi, Gower, Robinson tries; Robinson 2 goals). Crowd: 14,112 . Half-time: 22-0.