Injured Eels outclass sloppy Warriors
A gritty 80 minutes from an injury-ravaged Eels outfit has proved too much for a lacklustre Warriors side, closing out a 32-24 win at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
The game was arguably the most frustrating of a frustrating season for Warriors fans with the game there for the taking and enough flashes of occasional brilliance to show what could have been if they could just string it together.
Instead it was the gritty, gutsy Eels who found a way to keep turning up with five-eighth Clint Gutherson putting in possibly the best match of his impressive young career.
While new recruit Mitchell Moses had some good touches he didn't hit the heights of last week's win over Souths with Gutherson running the show, challenging the Warriors' line with intent and crucially proving perfect at the kicking tee to keep the Eels ahead as the Warriors came surging home. He powered over for the match-sealing try in the final minute to cap a fine all-round performance.
While the crowd heartily booed former Parramatta playmaker Kieran Foran in his first match in front of his old home crowd, the Kiwi pivot kept his head to create two of his team's tries but it wasn't enough as the sloppy Warriors made schoolboy errors and were generally out-enthused by a desperate Eels side.
The Eels raced out of the blocks, largely courtesy of some shabby Warriors defence. Centre Kirisome Auva'a's fourth-minute try was initiated by a slick Nathan Brown pass and a poor Solomone Kata read. Josh Hoffman's 10th-minute score started with a Gutherson line break followed up by some magical Bevan French evasiveness.
A concussion put Pritchard out of the game early while a knee injury rubbed out their winger Hoffman later in the half and the Warriors regained some momentum against the injury-hit Eels.
Simon Mannering strolled past a non-existent Moses tackle in the 19th minute before Ken Maumalo levelled the scores when he cashed in on an overlap to brush past Bevan French to score in the corner in the 26th.
Against the run of play, a shocker of a last-tackle play from the Warriors on attack saw a loose ball scooped up by Gower and finish up with Semi Radradra who exploded into space to run the length of the field and make it 18-12.
The Eels conceded an offside penalty inside their own half with a minute to go, handing the Warriors a golden chance to level up before the break but Steve Kearney's men managed to bomb two separate tries in the set to go to the sheds down 18-12.
Despite having a clear advantage in fit troops, the Warriors managed to look far more lethargic than their injury-ravaged opponents in the second half.
They conceded big meters to some energetic Parramatta charges almost every set and continually gave away late-set penalties, a couple of which earned Gutherson's 51st-minute penalty goal for an eight-point advantage.
The rot continued for the Warriors and a pair of quality offloads from Brown and Beau Scott set up Tepai Moeroa's second try in as many weeks.
A broken hand to Gower reduced the number of men on the Eels bench to one and shortly after the Warriors clawed a try back through Ryan Hoffman running a good line against the Eels' makeshift right-side defence to make it 26-18 with 15 minutes to play.
A freewheeling set against some tired defence ended with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck bursting over to reduce the deficit to two points with eight minutes to go.
Despite some late scares for the Eels, the Warriors continued to make crucial errors and instead it was man-of-the-moment Gutherson who sealed the deal with an 80th-minute barge over to kick off the blue and gold celebrations.
Parramatta Eels 32 (Auva'a, Hoffman, Radradra, Moeroa, Gutherson tries; Gutherson 6 goals) defeated Warriors 24 (Mannering, Maumalo, Hoffman, Tuivasa-Sheck tries; Johnson 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Eels 16-12. Crowd: 9,489.