NRL: Eels slip past Warriors

By Michael Brown

Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels runs at the defence during the round one NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels runs at the defence during the round one NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

Eels 36
Warriors 16

The Warriors embarked on their 20th year in the NRL tonight and in the space of 80 minutes gave a snapshot of why they have been such a frustrating team to follow over two decades.

They were good, they were bad and often quite ugly and, in the end, disappointing.

They have historically not coped well with increased expectations - the Warriors were being talked about pre-season as at least playoff contenders and possibly even top-four material after their 48-4 demolition of Brisbane a fortnight ago - and were inexplicably flat and disjointed tonight.

They couldn't cope with the Eels' aggression and will need to improve their attitude and execution against the Dragons next weekend at Eden Park.

Tonight's loss continues a poor sequence in opening games of the season.

The last time they won their opening match was against the Eels in 2009, and they have won only two first-round matches in the last 12 years.

It's still far too early to make judgements on this side, and there is enough quality to turn things around, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.

The Eels will be better than the past two seasons, when they collected the wooden spoon, but they still aren't expected to threaten the top eight and the Warriors have talked repeatedly about wanting to start this season well.

They have put an accent on defence but were dreadfully inept in their opening 20 minutes as they conceded three tries and it put them on the back foot from the outset.

Their right edge was a huge issue last season and it didn't start well but the left edge was also badly exposed as most of Parramatta's tries came down the flanks.

Their defence stiffened - it needed to - for a time and they were in the game at halftime as they trailed by 14-12. An eight-point try helped - Carlos Tuimavave copped a suspected broken nose in the act of scoring, giving Shaun Johnson a penalty from in front of the posts immediately after landing the conversion.

But the Eels took control in the second half as Semi Radradra and Vai Toutai both snared hat-tricks. Radradra's came very simply as he was the beneficiary of spilled bombs from Glen Fisiiahi and then Sam Tomkins.

There had been so much anticipation around Tomkins' debut and he won't look back fondly on this match. He will play a huge role in their gameplan this season, and few fullbacks play in the line as much as Tomkins, and showed some slick handling to lay on a couple of tries but also had some nervy moments and was easily beaten when trying to defend one try.

Supporting the Warriors has been a rollercoaster ride and, on the evidence of this match, it won't be any different in 2014.

Eels 36 (Semi Radradra 3, Vai Toutai 3, Jarryd Hayne tries; Corey Norman 2 gls, Joseph Paulo 2 gls) Warriors 16 (Glen Fisiiahi, Carlos Tuimavave, Manu Vatuvei tries; Shaun Johnson 2 gls). HT: 14-12.

- APNZ

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