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Cue the conspiracy theorists.

And it’s hard to resist getting on the bandwagon of the tinfoil hat brigade, who believe there is an NRL-driven plot against the Warriors, after a disgraceful refereeing performance gifted Parramatta a 24-22 win in a BankWest Stadium barnburner.

The Warriors led 18-12 at halftime, but they were forced to show extraordinary character just to stay in the contest in the second half under the weight of a 9-2 penalty count and a string of blatantly incorrect calls at crucial junctures. The Eels initially drew level after Chanel Harris-Tavita was penalised incorrectly after executing a legal one-on-one strip.

But the coup de grace was being denied one of the greatest backs-to-the-wall victories by another howler in the dying minutes.

After find themselves on the wrong side of virtually every 50-50 decision, the Warriors’ match-winning try – through a piece of sheer brilliance from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – was pulled back by a baffling forward-pass call.

It was a gut-wrenching blow to the Warriors’ tenuous finals hopes (a win would have put them into the Top 8) and an unbefitting of one of the best games of 2019.

Issac Luke’s brilliant 40/20 from dummy-half gave the Warriors their first opportunity in the fifth minute – and they took it with both hands.

Quick hands from Chanel Harris-Tavita, Adam Blair and Peta Hiku gave Ken Maumalo a saloon passage to his 13th try of the season, drawing level with Parramatta’s left winger, Maika Sivo, at the top of the NRL’s standings.

Luke’s white-hot start with the boot continued as he buried the sideline conversion.

The Warriors began to assert some physical dominance with their defence, but Sivo went on a one-man wrecking mission to square up the scoreboard.

The Fijian powerhouse humiliated Gerard Beale and Blake Ayshford with giant fends, before finding Brad Takairangi in support to finish off a 70-metre stunner.

The energised Eels took little time in surging to the lead.

Outstanding ball-playing from Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson left Maumalo standing in no-man’s land, with rookie winger Ethan Parry zipping over for his second try in as many NRL appearances.

But Luke took it upon himself to wrest the momentum back for the visitors.

Providing a reminder that he may be worth another one-year deal, ‘Bully’ powered over from dummy-half for the Warriors’ second try. Tuivasa-Sheck then showed great poise and vision near the Eels’ line to float a pass over Sivo’s head for Beale, who strolled in.

Luke nailed another conversion from touch to cap an extraordinary opening 25 minutes for the veteran hooker.

The Eels took the field position advantage in the early minutes of the second half on the back of a stack of penalties.

Absolutely dudded by an incorrect penalty against Harris-Tavita – who had executed a superb one-on-one strip – the Warriors suffered insult to injury through a jammy Sivo try after Dylan Brown’s pass deflected off Blake Green’s hand.

Moses’ conversion locked up the game at 18-all.

Overzealous defensive work from the Warriors on Nathan Brown – who was playing like a man possessed – saw the Eels awarded an eighth straight penalty, which Moses booted turned into two points and a 20-18 lead.

Parramatta’s superior quotient of individual brilliance pushed them six ahead with 23 minutes left. An audacious Manu Ma’u flick offload set Moses off on a long sideline break, before he grubbered ahead for Gutherson to score. Adam Blair deserves special mention for chasing the game-breakers down.

But Agnatius Paasi, taking a break from putting on a series of thunderous hits, nabbed a one-on-one strip from the ensuing set.

A Gidley flick from Hiku put Maumalo over for his second try.

The Warriors continued to be plagued by penalty, after bad call, after non-call. Yet they stayed in the contest and defended their line with some of the most admirable resolve they’ve shown all season.

An inexcusable forward-pass decision after Tuivasa-Sheck had cut through the Eels’ defence and flicked the pass of the season on for what should have been the match-winner to Beale with three minutes left sealed the Warriors’ fate.

Any notion that the referees were actively biased against the Warriors is ridiculous, but it seemed to be a horrific case of the whistle-blowers being pressured by the home crowd. And it’s certainly not the first time in 2019 they’ve been burgled of two points by awful officiating.

Taking anything away from the heart-breaking result other than a feeling of utter unfairness is difficult.

But individually RTS, CHT, Luke and Agnatius Paasi were magnificent – and that sort of collective performance will keep the Warriors in the finals race for a few weeks yet.




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Categories: Previews + Reviews, WARRIORS NEWS

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1 reply

  1. Were the Aussie refs unsighted? Let them take their guide-dogs onto the pitch!

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