Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

NRL: Fired-up crowd unable to help with the 'curse'

Ben Matulino of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Matulino of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images

The Eden Park league curse lives on and the home team again made a lot of their own bad luck.

Brian McClennan's reign as Warriors coach opened with a gripping but error-ridden loss to NRL champions Manly. A roaring crowd of 40,000 tried to lift the Warriors but was left with that old flat Eden Park feeling again.

This was league's fourth match at the rugby and cricket stronghold - the Kiwis have lost two tests including the 1988 World Cup final, and the Warriors have been beaten by Parramatta and now the Sea Eagles.

The weather was superb despite the weekend's storm warnings. Pre-match skydivers rained down instead, a few crash landing and one being stretchered away. The new Warriors ownership team of Owen Glenn and Eric Watson were introduced to the crowd, but Manly applied brakes to the feelgood factor.

Like the crocked skydiver, the Warriors will live on but the error rate must be reduced.

Chief among the culprits was Manu Vatuvei, a shocker-in-waiting, it seems. Vatuvei's handling slipped against Manly and it's hard to know how to rectify an intermittently recurring problem with a 130-game veteran., apart from looking for a successor. Fullback Kevin Locke was another to make crucial errors.

The highly promising Glen Fisiiahi waits in the wings for both.

On the plus side, Shaun Johnson's wonder try - when he twisted at high speed through a mass of defence - showed why he will terrorise NRL opponents. Orange-booted centre Konrad Hurrell, making his debut, powered through clutches of defenders and bounced a few away to underline his potential.

Manly were worthy winners. Under new coach Geoff Toovey, they survived a torrid physical battle and played the percentages to defend an early lead gained through excellent tries.

Manly have endured a coaching upheaval with Des Hasler's shock move to the Bulldogs, and subsequent rumours of future player departures. As potentially unsettled champions, they laid down an important marker at Eden Park.

- NZ Herald

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