Eels v Warriors: Five key points
The Warriors fought back from losing two players in the first half to snatch a thrilling golden point win against a desperate and improved Eels outfit at Pirtek Stadium. Here are five of the talking points from the match.
Conversions a killer
The Eels scored three tries in 80 minutes and the Warriors only two. But Shaun Johnson converted both – one from right on the sideline. Meanwhile promoted Eels halfback Luke Kelly missed all three of his chances and while all were tough, a single success could have averted a golden point period and helped his team to a much-needed win.
After the match Eels players and coach Brad Arthur rightly refused to blame the kicks as the reason an Eels side that had bombed several try-scoring chances lost the game.
Meanwhile regular kicker Chris Sandow booted eight from eight in NSW Cup earlier in the day.
After the game Arthur revealed fullback Reece Robinson, who started the year as the club's first-choice goal-kicker, has been unable to take conversions since the early rounds due to an ongoing quad strain.
"We'll sort [who takes the conversions next week] during the week," Arther said.
"Robbo's got a quad strain which has hampered him from kicking since Round 2 or whatever it is."
Strength in the face of injuries
Such is the closeness of this year's competition and the pace of the game that losing a player for the match early on is frequently a recipe for disaster.
The Warriors lost 80-minute back-rower Ryan Hoffman in the third minute to concussion and hooker Thomas Leuluai in the 24th to a likely season-ending ACL injury, and looked to be flagging badly as the game wore on the scores levelled, despite the Eels also eventually losing Isaac De Gois in the second half to a probable fractured cheekbone.
"It was definitely memorable," Mannering said after the game, adding the "tanks were definitely running on empty".
"I guess our backs were against the wall a bit with a couple of injuries there in key positions with Tommy and Hoffy... [I'm] proud of the team to stick with it, especially when went into extra time with a minute to go we definitely could've easily dropped out heads a bit."
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said he was proud of the way his side hung in despite the injuries.
"Yeah, our guys were out on our feet. Our skipper and some of our Kiwi guys have had a big month of football," McFadden said.
"It was always going to come down to a moment. I'm just glad that we got it."
Execution costs Eels
The Eels squandered any number of attacking opportunities and handed their opponents free chances far too often, especially in the first half.
Winger Semi Radradra was denied a try when his foot scraped the touch line in the act of scoring in the second half and the same player was an instant too late onto a Brad Takairangi tap-on in the first half that should have led to points.
A series of kicks from Corey Norman, as well as from Luke Kelly and Isaac De Gois, went dead in goal handing their opponents seven-tackle sets and a 20-metre restart rather than building pressure, and the club had made 50 more tackles by half-time as well as 12 more missed tackles and five more errors.
"I'm proud of the boys, I thought they tried very hard, same again I think at half time we'd made 70 more tackles, we're just making it very hard for ourselves with some fundamental errors," Arthur said.
"We probably bombed two or three tries and we can't afford to do it at this level, you've got to take your opportunities."
He also lamented Parramatta's 10 from 18 completions in the first half and 40 per cent share of possession.
"We just knew if we could try and get 50-50 in possession [in the second half] we'd be a chance."
Once the Eels levelled up the scores and looked like finishing stronger Arthur said execution again let the side down.
"We had all the momentum, we got down the other end of the field and made an error and gave them reasonable field position," he said.
"That was our problem in the first half, we gave them good field position and I think on one occasion we had back-to-back sets in the first half where it started in good ball, we dropped it on tackle one or two. They had consecutive sets at times at us. You just can't build any pressure making silly errors."
Eels not fussed by no stripping call
In the 74th minute with the scores locked at 12 apiece the ball came loose from Eels captain Tim Mannah with his side on the attack.
There was a suggestion of a strip with two men in the tackle as Sione Lousi came up with the ball; a penalty there in front of the Warriors' posts would have almost certainly handed the Eels the game.
Instead the visitors got down the Eels' end in that set and kicked a crucial field goal.
It was at the very least a loose carry from Mannah, who refused to blame the call for his side's loss.
"Mate I'm not sure [if it was a strip] but I don't think it's an excuse for us," Mannah said.
"We still had our opportunities and we could have taken them but I think we just continue learning our lessons and just getting better because that second half I thought the attitude was good, we just got to keep putting in for another week where we can put in a full effort for 80 minutes."
Golden try an unexpected option
Frequently golden point games effectively become a field goal shootout as sides forget that scoring more than one point is an option when only one is required.
The Eels did well to rush up on Shaun Johnson as he looked to break the deadlock during golden point but Danny Wicks's hand brushed the ball, handing the Warriors another set.
Knowing the field goal was on, the Eels again rushed up when the Warriors were next within range; the extra space and broken defensive line handed Bodene Thompson half a chance and he darted over, just grounding the ball on the line for the match-winner.
It's the gamble both attacking and defensive sides take on the all-or-nothing play in golden point but field position is crucial and the Warriors were good enough to take advantage on this occasion.
"Shauny [Johnson] was looking at a field goal, and then got a lot of pressure on him," Mannering said of the winning play.
"Tui [Lolohea] put a bit of a dent in them, and then with a bit of ruck speed, Boey [Thompson] carried one into the line and was a handful and managed to get it down. We were pretty pleased with that!"