Parramatta’s wretched season went from bad to worse on Friday night with a 24-14 loss to an injury-weakened New Zealand Warriors at ANZ Stadium.
With just two wins from 11 games, Parra need a minor miracle to turn their season around and qualify for the finals. And their fans know it – heading for the exit as Mason Lino lined up the conversion of Issac Luke’s try in the 75th minute. The margin was back to 10 points and the Warriors were starting to backslap.
The men from Auckland will have to lift further if they want to keep occupying a seat at the business end of the Telstra Premiership ladder. They face South Sydney next Saturday and only one Warriors forward – Agnatius Paasi – cracked 100 metres compared with five Eels forwards.
However, the Warriors’ eighth win of the season came without two of their spine – fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck stayed at home as his wife is expecting their first child and halfback Shaun Johnson is still nursing an ankle injury.
Still it was the Warriors’ first win at ANZ Stadium since 2011. The New Zealanders have now won four of their five games in Australia this season.
Warriors second-rower Isaiah Papali’i was sin binned in the 35th minute meaning the Eels had a one-man advantage to close the first half and open the second. They finally capitalised through Clint Gutherson cutting the Warriors defence open just before Papali’i returned. That got the Eels back within four at 12-8.
Then Manu Ma’u completed his hard, angled run to the line to breathe a little life into the hopes of the 9467 fans who had turned up.
Tries to Jazz Tevaga and Luke snuffed out the Eels’ challenge and surely with 13 rounds left and 11 wins needed, Parra are long odds to be playing in September.
A forgettable first half had one highlight – the continuing acrobatic skills of right-side winger David Fusitu’a. His 12th try of the season was a beauty.
The ball arrived in the 10th minute via slick passing from Luke, Tohu Harris and Lino but it left little room for Fusitu’a to work with. He merely jumped into the air over the touchline, manoeuvring his right arm back towards the corner post to place the ball. Lino converted from the sideline to add the exclamation mark.
Michael Jennings had a poor opening 40 minutes. He dropped the ball cold on one occasion and lost it in a tackle on another to surrender possession cheaply twice. Midway through the half and Michael and brother George made ineffective attempts to tackle Ken Maumalo and Peta Hiku.
Hiku merely spun in the tackle to score in the north-west corner, with Gutherson also out of position in cover defence.
It was a poor passage for Parramatta and they quite rightly found themselves down 12-2. Scores remained that way until halftime.
News & Notes: Former Broncos, Dragons, and Sharks back Gerard Beale played his first game for his fourth NRL club coming into the centres for Peta Hiku, who went to fullback… There was an injury before kick-off when senior referee Adam Gee strained his hamstring warming up with Gavin Reynolds stepping into the role…. Beau Scott (left knee) was injured in the 55th minute and didn’t return… It’s back on the road for the Eels travelling to Brisbane in round 12 for the Broncos.