Eels qualify for Nines decider
A polished effort from Parramatta, and a sixth and seventh try of the weekend to exciting youngster Bevan French, has seen them through to their first Auckland Nines grand final with a 17-8 win over Melbourne.
Storm try-scorer Tohu Harris was proud of what his side were able to achieve at the Nines, with few tipping Melbourne to make it deep in the tournament.
"Nobody sort of gave us a chance but we thought we had come up with a quality side, one that works hard for each other," Harris told NRL.com.
"I guess everyone else will think we're overachievers but we knew we were better than what we came up with in the last game. Unfortunately we faced an in-form Parra team and it just wasn't to be."
A relatively tentative feeling out period by both sides had the crowd getting restless with no attacking chances in the first few minutes. An Eels turnover looked like proving costly but a brilliant try-saver in goal from Ryan Morgan on the much bigger Harris somehow kept the scores at zero.
First points eventually came through future Eels star Bevan French who scored his sixth try of the weekend racing through on a Vai Toutai kick to ground it millimetres inside the dead ball line.
A long-range Richie Kennar try moments later squared things up at 4-all and despite one last play near the Storm line the Eels went to the break tied up.
Harris finally got his name on the board in the second half with a wide run splitting Semi Radradra and David Gower.
The blossoming combination between Toutai and French paid further dividends when the big winger offloaded to put the young fullback outside his man to streak 80 metres to score his seventh try of the weekend. More dangerous work from Toutai almost led to a try on the right but the ball went back left where Mitch Cornish provided a simple try to Radradra. Norman's sideline conversion removed any chance of the Storm levelling up and the score remained 17-8 as the Eels qualified for their first Auckland Nines decider.
Eels try-saver Morgan is confident of a tournament victory after accounting for a spirited Storm outfit.
"We had a bit of a slow start but I think we hit our stride and we're pretty happy with where we're sitting now," he told NRL.com.
"I think if we can keep playing the way we have been playing and turn up with our defence then we should be sweet and we should get the 'W'."
Parramatta Eels 17 (French 2, Radradra tries) def. Melbourne Storm 8 (Kennar, Harris tries).