It was mission impossible for the Parramatta Eels; not only were they facing the Warriors wanting to win for their fallen mate Sonny Fai – but it was Pricey’s 300th as well, and the New Zealand side didn’t disappoint winning 26-18.
The Warriors getting the win they wanted so badly for mate Sonny Fai, who drowned at an Auckland Beach in January, NZ winning 4 tries to 3 and scoring a club-record 7th consecutive home win.
With just under 18,000 on hand at Mt Smart, the Warriors came out firing – moving the ball quickly and with purpose, stunning the Eels and locking in over 80% possession for the first period of the match.
New buy Joel Moon who looked right at home in the halves slid over early as the Warriors soon took control. Young prop Russell Packer following suit soon after, barging over to get his side to a 12-0 lead.
For the Eels, it took them an eternity to settle, when they did – there were some nice patches of play. When they eventually got in their opponents red zone, Parramatta attacked with purpose and looked well organised.
The last tackle plays for the Eels were letting them down, several times dying with the ball and the turnover giving the Warriors ideal field position.
NZ sent wave after wave of attack down the Grothe wing and they had plenty of success as the veteran Eels winger coughed up ball and struggled with the attention.
In his 100th appearance for the Eels, Grothe made up some what for his early errors getting a nice try mid-way through the first half; cutting back on the angle off Ben Smith to find the line at pace.
But it was the Warriors night, the New Zealand outfit quickly recovering and scoring two rapid fire tries through the elusive Lance Hohia. The bench player proving extremely potent before going down with an injury – when fully fit, coach Cleary must find room for Hohia in the starting side, such is the ability of the half.
The Eels were only just hanging on, but some good second phase play originating from Feleti Mateo allowed Jarryd Hayne and Kris Inu to score; getting Parramatta back within 8 points mid-way through term 2.
The NZ Warriors never let the visitors get any closer; despite being hammered by injuries the locals braved the final period and refused to buckle as the Parramatta attack continued to come.
After losing Hohaia with a knee complaint, Matulino to ankle problems – the hosts then lost Michael Luck, concussed to a bone rattling tackle by Fui Fui Moi Moi. The heavy hit not containing anything illegal, but it seemed like the officials gave a penalty out of sympathy such was the condition of Michael Luck.
With 2 on-field referees, 2 touch judges and a video official – somehow they found fault with the Moi Moi shoulder hit, a worrying sign for the future. How many referees to we need to get it right?
As fitness became an issue late in the game, the Warriors down on personnel were doing extremely well to keep repelling the Eels. For NZ, custodian Wade McKinnon was a constant threat – his freakish runs with speed and swerve were constantly piercing.
Denan Kemp wasn’t extremely involved for his new club, having only limited chances but captain Price was dominant in his 300th game – eating up plenty of meters and drawing in defenders from all corners when he touched the ball.
NZ coach Ivan Cleary was happy with his side ball control and their attacking movement, but was frustrated with such a high injury toll so early in the season.
“There are plenty of bruised bodies,” Cleary said.
The coach also praised debutant five-eighth Moon, saying he was “coming along very nicely”. The success of Moon sure to keep Michael Witt out of the first grade side for the time being.
Clearly paid credit to the Eels and their ability to hang in for so long.
“To their credit, they just kept coming,” he said.
“They’ve got so many dangerous players, especially when they’ve got nothing to lose.”
Surprisingly, Eels coach Anderson wasn’t to worried about the first up loss. Both the Parramatta coach and captain Nathan Cayless saying they always knew the Warriors had plenty to play for and were always going to be a tough opponent on Week 1.
“It was a very, very high quality game for round one,” Anderson said.
“They blew us away in the first bit (and) it took us a while to regroup but I’m very encouraged by it.”
The progress of Jarryd Hayne seems to be going well, the X-Factor wanted by Anderson seems possible, with Hayne highly involved tonight and looking promising for the future. The move seeing Mateo run riot on the edges, setting up plenty of second phase.
Coach Anderson saying it was a mix of diamonds and stones for Hayne, but the plan will remain in place.
“But his defence was impressive.” confirmed Anderson
“I haven’t seen him tackle with that much ferocity before.”