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Four tries conceded in the opening 18 minutes confirmed the Warriors’ Magic Round fate against Parramatta, although a spirited fight-back provided something of a silver lining in a 34-18 loss…and the second confirmation in as many weeks that teenage wizard Reece Walsh simply cannot continue to collect splinters on the bench until the team is in a desperate position.

The Eels cruised to a match-winning lead courtesy of the Warriors’ infuriating sloppiness in every facet of play. Kodi Nikorima and Adam Pompey were among the worst offenders in a horrific first half, while Chanel Harris-Tavita was the only shining light.

But – as he was last week against Manly – Walsh was the catalyst for a comeback that was only officially snuffed out inside the last five minutes. Brought on at fullback, with skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck shunted to the wing, the rookie sensation made breaks, put teammates into wide open spaces and scored a stunning solo try that again lured Warriors supporters into the rugby league fan equivalent of falling in love.

The calls for Walsh to assume a permanent starting role will become deafening as the Warriors enter a pivotal section of their draw over the next fortnight.

The opening half-hour was as bad as anything the Warriors have dished up in recent seasons.

Errors and limp, incompetent attack was compounded by a distressing lack of communication and commitment on defence.

Mitchell Moses drew in two defenders on the Warriors’ goal-line to put Nathan Brown over back on the inside for the fifth-minute opener; Maika Sivo steam-rolled the retrenched Rocco Berry to score in the 12th minute; and Reagan Campbell-Gillard bagged a three-minute double – the first a result of poor goal-line D from Jazz Tevaga and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck under the Warriors’ posts, the second from backing up a sizzling Moses break.

24-0 down with less than a quarter of the match done.

The Eels weren’t doing anything special – just capitalising on schoolboy-level footy on both sides of the ball from the Warriors. Nathan Brown’s under-siege outfit had several subsequent opportunities, most of which were wasted by the horribly out-of-sorts Kodi Nikorima and Adam Pompey.

Chanel Harris-Tavita was several levels above in the first half – showing up his teammates with aggressive, terrier-like defence and great vision and intent on attack. His hooked-back kick, which Nikorima batted down for Josh Curran to plunge over, produced the Warriors’ first try after 33 minutes.

Reece Walsh was then injected into the action…and, inevitably, made an immediate an indelible impact. The 18-year-old made a 50-metre break from his own try-line with his second touch and put Ken Maumalo away done the sideline with a beautiful cut-out ball just before the break.

The second half started disastrously. Berry already ruled out for the game with an HIA, the Warriors lost Curran to a nasty elbow injury. The Eels went 28-6 up after Ryan Matterson scored courtesy of Pompey’s clumsy attempted disposal of a Moses bomb.

But the Warriors dodged a couple of game-sealing bullets and launched an audacious comeback.

Ben Murdoch-Masila – who endured an unhappy first 50 minutes – powered onto a nice Jazz Tevaga ball and over for his fifth try of the season in the 54th minute.

The Eels’ defence started to fray and the revival gathered tantalising steam when the effervescent Walsh put on a dummy and sidestep to score a sizzling solo try with 18 minutes left.

The chances kept presenting themselves to the Warriors as the likes of Nikorima, Harris-Tavita, Walsh and Pompey started to find more and more space. But agonisingly they couldn’t eat any further into the deficit before 18-year-old five-eighth debutant Jakob Arthur sealed the deal for the Eels in the 76th minute.

Although the fight-back was admirable, the upshot of an overall disappointing loss was the Warriors have slipped back to 10th with a 4-6 record. A short turnaround to a Gosford showdown with Wests Tigers shapes as must-win, while they face North Queensland in Townsville in Round 12 ahead of their Origin bye.

But if Nathan Brown can’t see the bold print written on the wall that says REECE MOTHERFUCKEN WALSH MUST START FROM NOW ON he likely never will, at least not until it’s too late. The Warriors’ finals chances could hinge on the upcoming Team List Tuesday, rather than Friday’s clash with the erratic-but-desperate Tigers.

Parramatta 34 (Reagan Campbell-Gillard 2, Nathan Brown, Maika Sivo, Ryan Matterson, Jakob Arthur tries; Mitchell Moses 4, Clint Gutherson goals) defeated Warriors 18 (Josh Curran, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Reece Walsh tries; Kodi Nikorima 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium

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