It was always going to be a difficult little assignment. Up against a side that was out of contention for a finals spot, thus having nothing to play for other than pride, with a predilection for ad lib football was not the most intoxicating way to spend an evening.
But the New Zealand Warriors managed it with remarkable sang-froid in their 26-12 win over the Parramatta Eels in Sydney tonight. While they did commit some unnecessary errors at times, generally they stuck to the basics for the majority of the match. For them this meant gaining good go-forward early in the tackle count before any consideration was given to emitting the ball wide to their outside backs. Their young props Sam Rapira and Russell Packer were in fine fettle as they led the way with a rampaging display of power running.
What was best of all though was a stupendous defensive effort on their part. This has fast become the Warriors trademark.
And they showed in the opening five minutes just why teams have had so much trouble breaking through their defence. Parramatta had all the ball over the opening exchanges and threw plenty of attack at the Warriors. Despite this the Warriors held firm and then proceeded to pile on an inordinately large amount of pressure of their own right back on the Eels. After having forced their antagonists through the agony of four goal line drop-outs between the 8th and 13th minutes, Parramatta’s defence finally succumbed as Brett Seymour went to his left side attack before putting in a grubber kick for Centre Jerome Ropati to gather and dive over in the tackle of Jarrod Hayne in the left corner.
A promising start, it has to be said. This, sadly, was undone thirteen minutes later through inattention on the part of the Warriors players. Having just conceded a penalty and two metres out from their own line, the sharp minded Timana Tahu spied an opportunity when he took a quick tap and hurled his body over the Warriors line for a four pointer to give Parramatta hope of sending off Nathan Cayless a winner in his last match before retirement.
That hope was speedily snuffed out in the 32nd minute by a Warriors outfit hell-bent on going into the finals with good form on their side when Kevin Locke took control of an out of control chip kick from Hayne. Not enjoying the scenery in his own half so much, he decided to take a break from the drudgery of home life and headed off toward the right side attack in search of a more meaningful way of life. What he found was a like minded companion in Brent Tate who he offloaded too and bid a fond adieu to his mate Tate as he took a forty metre whirlwind tour alongside the right touchline to dive over for his side’s second try and give the Warriors a 8-6 lead going into half-time.
Unfortunately for them, they also went into the break with one man down as James Maloney was sinbinned in the fortieth minute for tackling Luke Burt without the ball in a blatant professional foul twenty metres from the Warriors goal line.
This didn’t deter the visitor’s however. By the time Maloney was back on the field in the 50th minute, they had not only negotiated their way through what was potentially a tricky ten minute with only twelve men, but also a penalty count that had ballooned out to 8-2 in Parramatta’s favour.
And yet the Eels could not penetrate the stoic twelve man defence of the Warriors. There was too much lateral movement and not enough hard running up the middle of the ruck from Parramatta. This simply made it easier for the Warriors to shut the home side’s attack down. That and the constant array of offloads gone wrong.
Eventually, the extra possession afforded the Warriors by Parramatta told on the locals, and the Warriors on a three try scoring spree over the space of twelve minutes starting with Jesse Royal dotting down under the crossbar in the 56th minute.
What was particularly impressive about the Warriors performance was the patience they displayed. Yes they offloaded when the time was appropriate, but, on the whole, they kicked for field position at the right times, hard yakka up the middle of the ruck was the order of the day. And they did it all with such aplomb.
That patience was rewarded in the 65th minute when Aaron Heramia ran from dummy-half and terminated any contact the defence may have wished to have with him as he escaped the Eels attentions to race thirty metres up field before passing to Locke who scored beside the left upright. With Maloney’s conversion, the Warriors were out to a fourteen point lead and the result was never in doubt from here on in.
Even more so after Manu Vatuvei dived over in the left corner three minutes later to give the warriors a 26-6 lead.
All that was left now was for Cayless to score a consolation try with six minutes until full time remaining. He didn’t get the win he would have liked to finish his career with, but, still, the last scoring play of the match was a nice end for the big bloke.
It didn’t hide the fact that Parramatta was comprehensively outplayed by a Warriors side that are hitting the apogee of their form at the right stage of the season.
Now all they have to do is carry that form on for another four weeks.
Warriors 26(J Ropati, B Tate, J Royal, K Locke, M Vatuvei tries, J Maloney 3 goals)
Parramata 12(T Tahu, N Cayless tries, L Burt 2 goals)