Auckland Nines Day 2 talking points
After three years the Auckland Nines has a third different champion after the Parramatta Eels downed the favourites (of both the home fans and the bookies) the Warriors with a great exhibition of Nines football.
Here are some of the talking points to present themselves out of a second action packed day.
Team try of the day
Titans: Yet again there were countless candidates in another frenetic day of attacking rugby league. We'll give the nod to a wonderful length of the field effort started and finished by one of the best players of the weekend, Titans prop Agnatius Paasi, in the side's semi-final loss to the Warriors. After a play-the-ball just inside their half, playmaker Tyrone Roberts found Nene McDonald who stepped on the gas and popped it to Greg Bird who surged across the advantage line and flung a neat offload around the back of the defence to a wide-running Paasi. The big man streaked downfield showing remarkable pace. As the defence caught up he laid it back to fellow team-of-the-tournament member Chris McQueen who stepped out of one tackle and almost made it to the line and offloaded again to Paasi just inside the corner post and ran around to plant the ball down. Unluckily for his side it was their last four-pointer of the tournament.
Solo try of the day
Latrell Mitchell: This one has to go to impressive Roosters youngster Mitchell in what was actually the very first try of the day. Receiving the ball out on the right wing just five metres from his own try-line he hit the afterburners and raced around the edge of the Storm defence where the 18-year-old burned past first Richie Kennar then Dale Finucane on a 98-metre dash to the line.
Crowd moment of the day
Shaun Johnson: As with the first day, an individual piece of brilliance from hometown hero Shaun Johnson brought the biggest cheer of the day, and this one was even more impressive as a standalone piece of football. After a loss to the Sea Eagles yesterday the Warriors needed to beat Brisbane just to progress to the quarters and at 8-all with a minute left things were looking quite grim. With a field goal starting to look a serious option the Warriors were struggling just to get anywhere in range. After a pretty good set the final tackle came with the scattered Warriors needing something special from their skipper. And he delivered. From 25 metres out with a set defensive line in front of him he ran, he stepped, he ran and stepped again, skipped through a desperate last-ditch tackle and left most of the Brisbane team in his wake as he surged over under the posts to send the capacity crowd, in a heartbeat, from utter dejection to total elation.
Breakout star of the day
Bevan French: The young Eels fullback looked good on day one, bagging two tries in total, but he got everyone's attention on day two with six more tries – making it eight in five games – helping his side to the trophy in the process. He's a fair way off a first grade start yet, according to his coach, but if this weekend is anything to go by a future star has been born.
Team of the day
Parramatta: Who else? Long-suffering Eels fans got their first piece of silverware since a World Sevens title in 2003 on the back of polished and relentless short-form football. Their forwards dominated, their halves kicked and passed to perfection, their outside backs struck and struck again. Well done Eels.
Player of the day
Corey Norman: Again, there was only one real candidate. The Eels skipper was in everything: setting up tries, kicking conversions from touch, probing with his running game, kicking with skill and accuracy and controlling things with maturity on his way to a deserved tournament MVP award.
And what does it mean for the Eels?
The inaugural 2014 champions, North Queensland, won the NRL comp the following year while 2015 Nines champs South Sydney were reigning NRL premiers at that point. There is clearly a very limited correlation you could draw given the under-strength teams named by some clubs but the more superstitious types (and Parramatta fans) will hope it signals something bright ahead. Realistically though it's a definite confidence boost for the club and a positive nod towards the culture Brad Arthur is instilling in his charges. The fact they look comfortable playing some free-flowing attacking football can't hurt either.