The New Zealand Warriors scored their first opening-round victory in five years with a commanding Saturday night defeat of Parramatta in Auckland in 2007.
The hosts carved out a 24-0 halftime lead to put the match out of the Eels’ reach. Fullback recruit Wade McKinnon needed only eight minutes in a Warriors jumper to prove there was life after Brent Webb with a blistering try to open the scoring against his former club, backing up brilliant work by hooker George Gatis and halfback Grant Rovelli.
McKinnon, who began his NRL career at Souths, had played 51 games for the Eels from 2004-06 before being lured across the Tasman as a replacement for Leeds-bound fan favourite Webb.
Gatis sent captain Steve Price over beside the posts five minutes later, former Wests Tigers winger Michael Crockett produced a fine finish to score on club debut and a wide-running Simon Mannering sliced through for a four-pointer to complete the first-half rout.
Parramatta posted the first two tries of the second half to raise hopes of a revival, but centre Lance Hohaia and Crockett latched onto deft Nathan Fien kicks to seal the result.
Crockett’s effort to force the ball inches inside the dead-ball line to claim his double was spectacular, but most of the post-match plaudits were lavished upon McKinnon, whose dazzling running game in a man-of-the-match performance had Warriors fans swooning.
Warriors 34 (Michael Crockett 2, Wade McKinnon, Steve Price, Simon Mannering, Lance Hohaia tries; Tony Martin 5/7 goals) d. Parramatta 18 (Daniel Wagon, Nathan Cayless, Jarryd Hayne tries; Luke Burt 3/3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium, March 17 (Saturday night), 2017. Halftime: New Zealand 24-0. Referee: Gavin Badger. Penalties: Parramatta: 10-9. Crowd: 13,587.