“Some of the mistakes over the last couple of weeks simply aren’t good enough” – Graham Annesley, NRL Head of Football on July 8, 2019. Two days after a questionable performance by match officials in the Warriors’ clash against the Knights.
Once again the Warriors took a game right down to the wire, in another enthralling, heart-stopping thriller. Ultimately it will be a controversial 77th-minute call by the match officials that is talked about more than the gutsy performance itself.
- 44,000 – The New Zealand TAB have paid out $44,000 on Head-to-Head bets placed on the Warriors game against the Eels in what they called a “justice payout”.
The Parramatta Eels ultimately took the honours with a 24-22 win at their fast-becoming fortress, BankWest Stadium.
- 6 – The Eels have now won six of their seven games at BankWest Stadium, having first played there in Round 6 of this season.
- 4 – The lead changed four times as neither side was prepared to lay down without a fight with finals football on the line.
The Warriors went into the game confident of a victory over the unpredictable Eels after stringing together a number of gutsy results over the past month.
- 5 – Prior to this game the Warriors had won five of their last six games away from home, drawing the other.
And it didn’t take long for them to stamp their authority on the game with powerhouse winger Ken Maumalo – fresh back from a concussion layoff – touching down in the corner to score the opening try.
- 13 – Ken Maumalo scored his 13th try of the season to move level with his opposition winger, Maika Sivo, and Broncos flyer Corey Oates as the leading try-scorers in the NRL this season.
But the Eels were quick to hit back in what proved to be a frantic opening stanza on a dry Saturday afternoon track in Western Sydney. The Eels’ Kiwi centre Brad Takairangi finished off a 60-metre run by Sivo, who swatted Warriors backs Gerard Beale and Blake Ayshford away like flies as he seemed to leisurely saunter up field.
- 5 – This was Takirangi’s fifth try in his past three games, taking him to a career-high eight tries for the season.
And it wasn’t long before the Eels were in again – three minutes to be exact. Influential fullback Clint Gutherson shifted a brilliant ball across the face of two Warriors defenders to send rookie winger Ethan Parry over in the corner.
- 2 – Ethan Parry has scored a try in each of his two NRL games to date, also crossing on debut against the Sea Eagles a week earlier.
The 17,392 strong crowd were getting more than their money’s worth as the two sides were going at better than a point a minute when Issac Luke, looking in vintage form, powered over under the uprights to restore parity.
- 50 – Issac Luke scored the 50th try of his NRL career. It was his 14th for the Warriors, having previously scored 36 tries for the Rabbitohs.
If that wasn’t enough, the Warriors looked to increase the tempo and with the backline set deep to the left, captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck standing at acting dummy-half switched the play to the right with a lobbed cut-out ball to an unmarked Gerard Beale to dot down in the corner. The Warriors were back in the lead once again.
- 1 – Beale scored his first try for the season for the Warriors and his fourth overall for the club.
After a brilliant opening half, with both sides willing to chance their arm and go for the jugular early on, the Warriors went into the sheds with a deserved 18-12 lead.
- 21 – Since 2006 the team leading at halftime in the last 22 games in this fixture has gone on to win on 21 occasions. On the other occasion it was 0-0 at halftime, with the Eels going on to win 12-10.
See what head coach Stephen Kearney had to say about tonight's match.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) July 27, 2019
Six minutes into the second half with the Eels attacking the Warriors’ line, young Kiwi born half Dylan Brown attempted a switch of play only for Blake Green to accidentally bat the ball backwards towards his own try line. Eels winger Sivo collected the loose ball and dived over to give the Eels a dream start after the break.
- 14 – Sivo regained the NRL top try scorer mantle (albeit briefly) with his 14th for the season. This is his first season in the NRL, a relatively late bloomer at 25 years of age.
After Mitchell Moses slotted a penalty to square things up he then turned provider for Gutherson, showing some serious pace to accelerate around the Warriors defence on his own 20-metre line before a deft kick infield, which bounced beautifully for his skipper to canter over and put the Eels into the lead once more.
- 3 – Gutherson has now scored a try in each of his past three games against the Warriors.
But as they did throughout the game, the Warriors would not be condemned. A simple through-the-hands move three minutes later created an overlap for that man Maumalo to once again touch down for the simplest of tries. Chanel Harris-Tavita unfortunately missed the sideline conversion, leaving the Eels up 24-22 with 20 minutes to play.
- 4 – Maumalo picked up his fourth double of the season, which also sent him back level with Sivo at the top of the NRL try-scoring chart.
- 14 – Going into the 2019 season Maumalo had scored 14 tries from 64 games in four seasons for the Warriors.
- 28 – He has now doubled his career tally in his past 17 games.
Then with time just about up – almost on cue – Tuivasa-Sheck broke the line from 40 metres out, beating two Eels defenders and drawing in another two as he produced a miraculous back-handed pass to the flying Beale who was unmarked into the corner, only for both the referee and the touch judge to rule it had gone forward.
Ultimately a lot will be said about decisions going against the Warriors that could have potentially cost them a finals berth. Although on reflection that isn’t entirely true, as the Warriors have had 19 games this season to try and secure said finals berth. However, it does leave a nasty taste in the mouth even for the most ardent of fans – particularly after a string of woeful refereeing calls going against them in the past month.
- 12 – A win would have propelled the Warriors into equal-eighth spot on the NRL ladder, but they now sit in a distant 12th. Mathematically they are still within striking distance, but they face a brutal draw over the last six rounds.
Results have gone the Warriors’ way over the past month; unfortunately this wasn’t to be. The sixth-placed Eels survived an enthralling contest to secure a two-point victory.
- 4 – None of the results in the Warriors’ last six games have been decided by more than four points.
- 8 – Warriors prop Leeson Ah May has not tasted victory over the Eels in eight games now, since 2012.
The Warriors must take heart from this performance; they never looked like a beaten team and the adversity should only make them stronger. Tuivasa-Sheck and Maumalo were once again outstanding in attack, whilst Ah Mau, Luke, Peta Hiku, Chanel Harris-Tavita and Jazz Tevaga all continued their recent good form which has helped perform an often over-looked mid season turn around.
- 6 – For the sixth game in a row Tuivasa-Sheck ran for over 200 metres. Running for over 250 metres in the past three games, he is now starting to streak away from teammate Maumalo for the most metres run in the NRL this season.
- 5 – Tuivasa-Sheck was once again ably supported by the increasingly reliable Maumalo who has carried for over 200 metres in his past five games.
- 1 – Ah Mau missed his first tackle since Round 15 against the Panthers. He has missed just two tackles out of 187 in his past 7 games.
- 50 – Jazz Tevaga once again topped 50 tackles in the game, the third time in the past five games he has done so.
- 10 – Two try-assists for Hiku took him to 10 for the season now, placing him 11th in the NRL overall. He is the only player in the top 25 that is not in a 1, 7 or 9 playmaking position.