Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The scoring began in just the fifth minute, with Parramatta left winger Semi Radradra bursting down the left-hand side to score, beating several tackles along the way. The Eels then wasted no time in targeting the Warriors right-hand side defence once again, and this time Hayne was the beneficiary from more good work by Radrada, and it was 10-0 after 16 minutes.
The first half was scrappy, with both sides trading errors and penalties. The Warriors were finally able to hit back in the 19th minute after winger Glen Fisiiahi latched onto a nice cutout pass from English import Sam Tomkins. However, their joy was short-lived, as the Eels hit back just a minute later through Vai Toutai. Both sides had further opportunities leading up to half time, but it was the Warriors who finally crossed just before the break when centre Carlos Tuimavave went over on the right side. The referees had been extra cautious with their usage of the video referee, but this time their caution was warranted as replays showed Tuimavave had been hit high as he put the ball down. An eight point try was awarded to the Warriors and Johnson converted both chances, cutting the lead to just two, and Tuimavave had a bloody nose to nurse as both teams went to the sheds.
If the Eels felt like they deserved more than a two point lead, they went about it the right way straight after half time. Two further tries came for Radradra within just six minutes of the second half getting underway, with both tries capitalising on some rusty catching from the Warriors outside backs. Radrada's third did come with some controversy however, as replays suggested he was grounded short of the line and rolled onto his back. The video referee backed the on-field referee's original decision of try, though the Warriors would certainly have good reason to feel hard done by.
Some ordinary goalkicking from Corey Norman kept the Warriors within 12, and they then cut the deficit to 8 through Vatuvei 50 minutes in. But the remainder of the match was punctuated by further handling errors from the visitors and some concerning defensive mistakes from their outside men, allowing Parramatta's other winger Vai Toutai to cross twice more to complete his hatrick to go with Radradra's.
New Eels coach Brad Arthur will be happy with his teams first showing of the year as his side powered out of the blocks and then held the lead for the remainder of the game, showing enterprise in attack and determination on defence. New recruit William Hopoate had some nice touches but his best football will come in time. The Warriors meanwhile have some early work to do after a fair amount of pre-season hype. Their ball control was poor but of more concern will be the ease with which tries were scored on their flanks.