Warriors break Eels' hearts with golden try
A golden point extra-time try to Bodene Thompson has helped a 15-man Warriors side scrape home 17-13 to break the hearts of the majority of the 11,152 fans at Pirtek Stadium.
The Eels had outscored the Warriors three tries to two across 80 minutes but Shaun Johnson's clutch conversions and newly-promoted Parramatta halfback Luke Kelly's none-from-three with the boot proved telling.
After the Eels had fought back from 12-nil down to level the scores in the second half, Chad Townsend put the visitors up with five minutes to play with a field goal before Kelly finally guided one between the sticks in the 79th minute to lock the scores up at 13-all.
A left-side movement in extra time almost sent Eels winger Semi Radradra into space but he couldn't handle Brad Takairangi's pass and the resulting field position allowed Shaun Johnson to set up for a field goal. Pressure from the Eels forced the shot wide but the ball was touched and from the ensuing dropout Bodene Thompson broke through the rushing defence to just ground the ball on the line.
There was drama early for the Warriors when a head clash led to NSW back-rower Ryan Hoffman being concussed in just the third minute and playing no further part in the match. The away side was then reduced to just 15 men in the 24th minute when hooker Thomas Leuluai went off with a knee injury.
Despite the injury blows the Warriors dominated proceedings early on against an Eels outfit high on effort but low on execution and completing just 10 of 18 sets and squandering its only attacking chances with poor options.
The visitors struck first through some more Shaun Johnson magic as the New Zealand halfback elected to run it on the last as the Eels rushed up in the 19th minute.
He fired a cut-out pass to winger Jonathan Wright who made some ground and put it on the toe for Johnson backing up to scoop up the ball and beat another three defenders with magic footwork on the way to the line.
The New Zealanders stretched their lead to 12-0 in the 30th minute as Chad Townsend took advantage of yet another Eels error to spread it wide for Solomone Kata to score.
Aside from the 9-5 error count against his men the 17-5 missed tackle count would also have been addressed by Eels coach Brad Arthur at half-time.
Arthur said while he was very proud of the way his team stuck to their task in the second half it was a lack of execution in the first half, resulting in his side having to once again do a mountain of defence, that came back to bite them.
"At half-time we'd made 70 more tackles, we're just making it very hard for ourselves with some fundamental errors. 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 said.
Parramatta were down to 16 themselves when bench hooker Isaac De Gois suffered a suspected broken jaw or cheekbone shortly after half-time but the home side still dominated the second half, scoring three unanswered tries – but newly-promoted halfback Luke Kelly's wayward conversions meant it was 12-all going into the final 10 minutes.
Anthony Watmough earned his first try of the year shortly after the resumption, grounding a loose ball from a Luke Kelly chip that was fumbled in-goal by Warriors Wright.
Try-scoring sensation Semi Radradra benefited from some great work from Norman and Takairangi shortly before opposite winger Ryan Morgan scored his second try in two weeks after a deft tap-on from Will Hopoate.
With the clock becoming a factor both sides became more frantic but the home team's completions were a significant improvement on their first-half efforts.
A controversial decision five minutes from time was ruled a dropped ball from Eels skipper Tim Mannah rather than a stripping penalty against Warriors forward Sione Lousi that would have handed the Eels the game, but the tough call looked the correct one.
After the game Mannah said he wasn't sure if he'd dropped the ball or had it stripped but refused to blame that as a turning point.
"I'm not sure [if it was a strip] but I don't think it's an excuse for us, we still had our opportunities and we could have taken them."
A scarcely believable series of passes from Parramatta in the 79th minute ended up with a repeat set when the Warriors knocked the ball down and set the side for Kelly's field goal, but in the end it proved not quite enough.
Relieved Warriors captain Simon Mannering described the match as "definitely memorable".
"I guess our backs were against the wall a bit with a couple of injuries there in key positions with Tommy and Hoffy," Mannering said.
"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."
He added the "tanks were definitely running on empty" towards the end and expressed his relief the video referee upheld the on-field call of 'try' for Thompson's match-winner.
"It was a grind the whole game; even when we got up 12-0, it was hard going. A lot of footy in play and a lot of back and forth. I guess when it was upstairs, we knew the on-field ref called a try. Thankfully that's what they stuck with."
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said it looked like the side would be without Leuluai for the rest of the season with the hooker appearing to suffer an ACL injury while Arthur said De Gois appeared to have a fractured cheekbone.
Warriors 17 (Johnson, Kata, Thompson tries, Johnson 2 goals; Townsend field goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 13 (Watmough, Radradra, Morgan tries; Kelly field goal) at Pirtek Stadium. Crowd 11,152. Half-time: Warriors 12-0.