Manu Vatuvei laid his high-ball demons to rest yesterday against the team that first exposed them, negating the Eels' game plan and scoring two tries as the Warriors closed out last year's NRL semifinalists.
The Warriors were a different team than last weekend, playing with initiative for the 80 minutes.
It was an utterly convincing win showing that they can compete while missing leader Steve Price and their star fullback Wade McKinnon.
It was all of one minute 20 seconds before the Eels tried their chances with a bomb to the Warriors' in-goal on Vatuvei's left wing. Utility Lance Hohaia, who was elevated to the injured Wade McKinnon's No 1 jersey yesterday, covered that kick and played well enough to cement a return next weekend ahead of Aidan Kirk, whose first-up effort against the Storm did not produce anything that demanded he be picked again.
The Eels finished the half with a bomb to Vatuvei, too. It was not a game plan varied enough to drive them to victory, no frailty exposed this time, stand-in captain Ruben Wiki full of praise for the 20-year-old. He had earned the confidence of the team by showing he can immediately bounce back from errors.
The Eels first try came from a classic Warriors knock-off after a 50:50 refereeing call and as the quarter-time hot weather water break loomed. The visitors' fullback Luke Burt was tackled hard metres from their line after covering a kick and, although he did not fully stand and his foot didn't touch the ball, ref Shayne Hayne awarded the Eels a penalty because the Warriors markers were not square. They took the ball, went 95 metres and put wing Eric Grothe in at the right corner.
The Warriors first try came after some off-loading razzle-dazzle whereby they made front-and-centre near the posts. Then Vatuvei proved why he'll be in the team again next weekend, dancing the touchline and holding tacklers at bay as he had the previous weekend in Melbourne.
Three minutes later, halfback Grant Rovelli saw space and grubbered the ball there, Jerome Ropati regathered and passed inside to Rovelli and with the kick it was 12-6.
That run showed how much they respond to confidence, not least the halfback. All of a sudden the passes stuck, the penalties went their way. The Eels kicked out on the full, Rovelli showed invention to kick first tackle off a scrum and the Warriors nearly scored again through Brent Tate.
The Warriors started with their pack leadership group Wiki, Logan Swann and Nathan Fien on the bench, coach Ivan Cleary pleased with the maturity shown by the replacements. The Eels opened the second half scoring through Joel Reddy but then fell apart under a mountain of sustained pressure from the home side. Consecutive penalties preceded Vatuvei's second try. A blockbusting 50m run by the big wing set up another for Evarn Tuimavave.
The Eels seemed devoid of ideas and spent the bulk of the last quarter in their own half, tackling.
A group of Parramatta fans in the good crowd of 15,250 left with eight minutes to go.
Cleary was pleased with the impact new hooker Ian Henderson made from the interchange. Sonny Fai played solidly on debut. No one should be nervous about keeping their place in the 17 to face Manly away next weekend.
Dannevirke product Weller Hauraki made his NRL debut for the Eels, replacing test second rower Nathan Hindmarsh who withdrew with a virus. There will be a measure of how this game ranks over the next fortnight, the Eels playing Newcastle next weekend, the Warriors hosting them the weekend after.