TWL RD 11 WRAP: FAST-FINISHING WARRIORS GIVE EELS THE SLIP

Once again it’s a case of one step back, two steps forward for the 2018 Warriors, who for the third time in five rounds have responded to a dismal loss with a remarkable victory.

Coming off a season-worst 32-0 loss to Sydney Roosters at home – and without superstars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson on deck – the Warriors outlasted a desperate Parramatta Eels side 24-14 in a Friday night thriller.

The Warriors shot out to an early double-digit lead before eventually being reeled in and overtaken inside the final quarter. But yet again their superior fitness and newfound composure proved the difference, icing the result with two late tries.

It was miles off a complete performance. But given their disruptions and reshuffling (and a reaming from the refs) it was as valuable a two points as they’ve picked up this year, despite the Eels’ lowly billing. The hosts fought back impressively from a diabolical start and had all the momentum when they hit the front in the 61st minute.

But the Warriors confirmed their status as a very good closing team. And uncharacteristically good travellers, with four wins from five games in Australia to date. It was also gave them consecutive wins in Sydney for the first time in more than three years.

Three early penalties allowed the Eels to boot their way to a 2-0 lead, but the Warriors posted the opening try after 10 minutes via a slick short-side play.

Beautiful hands from Tohu Harris and Mason Lino preceded a trademark gymnastic finish from David Fusitu’a – his 12th meat pie of the season.

That try came on the back of a Parramatta kick out on the full and an error from the home side on their next possession and a subsequent penalty saw Lino follow up his sideline conversion with a penalty goal.

The Warriors went up 12-2 after 20 minutes with a Keystone Cops-style try.

Ken Maumalo climbed to take a Lino kick and flung it back to Peta Hiku, who slipped over near the sidleine. Eels winger George Jennings then slipped over in a horrid tackle attempt and the fullback stand-in scrambled over for his second try as a Warrior.

With Parramatta so appalling for the first half-hour – climaxing with Corey Norman missing touch from a penalty – the Warriors almost became too frantic on attack, squandering a succession of sets in good ball .

The Eels eventually regained their composure and another run of three quick penalties against the Warriors culminated in Isaiah Papali’i’s sin-binning with six minutes of the first half left. But some huge defensive plays on their goal-line – Maumalo and Lino prominent – preserved the visitors’ 10-point lead into the break.

The penalty train continued to chug over the top of the Warriors early in the second stanza and Clint Gutherson sliced through for the Eels’ belated first try.

Their goal-line resolve quickly returned, repelling several Parramatta attacking forays, but the Warriors’ performance with the ball became very ragged with Lino, in particular, struggling with his execution.

Hiku had gone largely untested at the back for the first hour, but he came up with the most hair-brained decision of the Warriors’ season to date – Krisnan Inu-esque in its conception – to get bundled into touch.

A hard-running Manu Ma’u charged over in the ensuing set to put the blue-and-golds up 14-12.

But the Warriors rode their luck to reclaim the lead with 12 minutes left. Blake Green’s grubber took a horror bounce for Mitchell Moses and Jazz Tevaga picked up the scraps to dot down beside the post.

A couple of missteps and nervous moments at their own end faded into insignificance when Issac Luke showed immense strength to power over from a dummy-half dart and seal the result.

Luke’s display – particularly in the championship minutes – was heroic.

It’s inconceivable that he’s at anywhere near 100 percent after just a week off from knee and shoulder injuries that shaped as month-long setbacks. But ultimately he was the most influential player on the field.

The Warriors’ twin tower wingers were outstanding – again there were few better on the field than the reborn Maumalo – and Gerard Beale made a wonderful club debut that will cause Stephen Kearney some selection headaches in the near future.

Tohu Harris was the most impressive forward, though it was difficult to find a subpar performer in the engine-room.

Green and Lino were patchy in all attacking respects but steered the side well enough and Hiku, who apparently had his shorts on backwards, will be relieved his brain explosion didn’t cost the Warriors the game.

After a meek effort six days earlier, the Warriors vitally showed a ton of character. Now they regroup for a huge showdown with surging South Sydney in Auckland – hopefully with a high-profile troop or two back to assist the team’s bid for back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 5.

 

 

 

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