Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Shocker start for Warriors

Thomas Leuluai of the Warriors crosses for a try only to have it disallowed. Photo / Getty Images
Thomas Leuluai of the Warriors crosses for a try only to have it disallowed. Photo / Getty Images

Eels 40
Warriors 10

New year, new beggining, new coach - same old result.

Despite all of the talk of a rebirth under Matthew Elliott and the massive investment in support staff and equipment, on this early evidence there are danger signs for Warriors HQ.

Both sides in this match had talked of a rebuild. The Eels looked a completely different side to last year's strugglers whereas the Warriors bore a worrying resemblance to their 2012 selves.

The visitors had came into this match as slight favourites. They had won six of the last eight clashes against the Eels and the arrival of Dane Nielsen and Todd Lowrie give them the stronger roster on paper. That impression lasted about ten minutes.

At times it was hard to see what had changed from 2012. Remember, they were taking on last year's wooden spooners. Parramatta will be an improved, efficient side under Ricky Stuart (Chris Sandow in particular looks a different player under his tutition) but they looked like world beaters yesterday.

Parramatta coughed the ball nine times in the first half alone but still dominated possession and territory. From the Warriors there was too much one out running, little anticipation in backing up and looking for the offload and unconvincing fifth tackle options. Most damning of all was the lack of urgency; whether it was Sandow skipping through lazy defence to touch down, or the Eels improbably escaping out of their own in goal (after an ordinary Warriors chase) and scoring a minute later.

For all the flash new gym equipment, the altitude chamber and the core cooling units, the DNA seems the same. It's like trying to fix a leaky building by giving it a new paint job and carpet. Most of the men in the Warriors squad haven't experienced a NRL win since the first week of July last year. On tonight's evidence, for all the effort on display, the belief, raw hunger and desire still needs to be rediscovered by the men in Warriors jerseys.

Losing doesn't seem to hurt enough. They weren't helped by a serious of bizarre errors and the loss of Manu Vatuvei to an ankle injury affected their structure;
On the positive side, Thomas Leuluai had a solid debut while Glen Fiishahi looked dangerous and Elijah Taylor - apart from one shoulder charge - did some good work from dummy half.

The visitors almost made the perfect start - Leuluai showed great strength to force his way over from five metres out but the try was disallowed by the video referee, who decided that Todd Lowrie had illegally driven his teammate over the line. It was a strange call. Nobody wants to see the days of the famous Parramatta flying wedge of the 1980s, where up to four players would combine to push their teammate towards the try line but there was little doubt that Leuluai scored off his own endeavours.

The Eels capitalised on the reprieve, on the back of consecutive penalties, and Chris Sandow (who looked noticeably trimmer than the 2012 version) jinked through some lazy marker defence in the 17th minute to open the scoring. Ten minutes later Parramatta extended their lead, Hayne crossing between the posts after a lovely offload from Rene Maitua.

The Warriors tried to lift the tempo with some strong runs but there was further damage, with Matthew Ryan scoring after a long range break. Pita Godinet had an instant impact, laying on a try for Jacob Lillyman while Kevin Locke showed great timing to send Dane Nielsen over. At 20-10 the comeback was on but was snuffed over by tries to Sio and Hayne in quick succession.

Eels 40 (C. Sandow, J. Hayne 3, M. Ryan, K. Sio 2 tries; C. Sandow 6 goals)
Warriors 10 (J. Lillyman, D. Nielsen tries; S. Johnson goal)
Halftime: 18-0

- Herald on Sunday

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