Parramatta's 16-point halftime lead proved to be just a little too much for the Vodafone Auckland Lions to overcome in their New South Wales Premier League clash at Parramatta Stadium on Monday night.
The Eels had dashed to a 28-12 advantage in the first 40 minutes, leaving them well-placed to go on with it in the second half.
But the Vodafone Auckland Lions put together a vastly improved effort in the second stanza before losing 22-30. It was such a turnaround that the Graeme Norton-coached side kept the 2006 premiers tryless in the second half while scoring another two tries to close to just 22-28 with 17 minutes to go.
But the comeback stopped there, the Eels going out to a vital eight-point lead with a penalty by young Kiwi international Krisnan Inu, Parramatta's only points of the half.
If there was credit in finishing with a 10-2 second half edge, it was even more meritorious after the difficulties the Vodafone Auckland Lions had encountered.
They flew to Sydney earlier in the day without fullback Aidan Kirk, who fell ill at the airport and couldn't travel. That left them with a 16-man squad boosted by Vodafone Warriors second rower Epalahame Lauaki, who dropped off the NRL side's five-man bench.
The Auckland side started encouragingly with veteran first-grade winger Todd Byrne scoring an early try but the margin grew to 6-16 before young prop Leeson Ah Mau grabbed a try to cut it back to 12-16.
The danger period was just before halftime when the Eels scored two more tries to stretch to a telling 28-12 halftime lead. That signalled another comeback effort and it promised to become something special when winger Michael Crockett scored in his comeback from injury followed by a touchdown to powerful 2006 Junior Kiwi Constantine Mika. In the end, though, the halftime advantage proved to be too much to overcome.
At Parramatta Stadium, Parramatta:
Vodafone Auckland Lions 22 (Todd Byrne, Leeson Ah Mau, Michael Crockett, Constantine Mika tries; Steve Buckingham 3 conversions).
Halftime: 28-12 EelsLike