TEAMLIST TUESDAY | Possibly the last ever - and it's the GRAND FINAL edition!
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Ivan Cleary hailed his young forwards after the New Zealand Warriors turned around a shaky season start to beat Parramatta 30-16 in their NRL match in Auckland.
Giant winger Manu Vatuvei was again at his best and worse, mixing two tries and block-busting runs with handling fumbles as he did in the error-strewn loss to Melbourne last weekend.
But it was the less experienced forwards, who took added responsibility in the absence of injured skipper Steve Price, who drew Cleary's warmest praise after the Warriors led 12-6 at halftime and ran way with the game before 15,250 fans.
It was only the second win by the Warriors in their past nine meetings with the Eels and Cleary mentioned interchange forwards Evarn Tuimavave and Epalahame Lauaki and prop Sam Rapira as players who had stepped up.
"They are going to have keep doing that. Today was a good start," Cleary said.
"It was good today as well that the second half we started without Ruben (Wiki) and (Nathan) Fien and Logan (Swann) on the bench, it was a young team out there and I was really happy with the way we started the second half," Cleary said.
Acting captain, Wiki agreed: "You know watching from the sidelines it was great to see them putting their hands up and sharing the work load around.
"It just kind of showed everyone how far they have come," he said.
Wiki said Vatuvei had demonstrated his ability to recover and hit back after setbacks.
"If he does make an error, he bounces back straight away," he said.
"He's shown everyone how much he's grown."
Five-eighth Michael Witt converted all five of the Warriors' tries to maintain his 100 percent record for the year.
Parramatta were without forward star Nathan Hindmarsh, recovering from flu.
The Eels jumped out to an early lead with a Luke Burt penalty and Eric Grothe try but Vatuvei hit back for the home side when he brushed through Grothe to score in the corner.
And the Warriors went ahead when they scored from the kickoff, when centre Jerome Ropati regathered halfback Grant Rovelli's kick and sent Rovelli over for a try.
Vatuvei's error contributed to the Eels' second try early in the second half when he lost the ball in a tackle and Joel Reddy scored from that possession.
But the Warriors then piled on three quick tries through Vatuvei, recruit Brent Tate and Tuimavave to ensure the win.
Eels coach Michael Hagan praised the Warriors effort.
"We knew they would be stinging after their loss to Melbourne and I thought they played very well," Hagan said.
"I thought they played with a lot of quality and they executed things extremely well and put us under a lot of pressure.
"I wasn't expecting we would be at our best in the first couple of weeks, but the boys worked hard I thought, and defended on their lives for long periods.
"I am sure we will get better from here and we would need to," he said.