The Parramatta Eels Jersey Flegg side have come away with a tough fought, grinding 18-10 victory over the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium in Round 17 of the competition on Saturday 7 July.
In a game that went down to the final few minutes, a try in the final minute of play to Eels winger Haze Dunster capped off the three try to two victory to the Eels.
The home side started the clash in aggressive style, looking to put their stamp on the contest early, but it was equally met and matched by the Blue & Gold starting prop pairing of Stefano Utoikamanu and Sean Keppie.
The Eels began to win the battle for possession and it took a nice weighted kick by halfback Dylan Brown to earn a repeat set. The half kicked to the corner forcing the Warriors fullback to take the ball into touch to prevent the Eels chase from diving on the bouncing ball.
The kick led to points, when following a few strong charges by the Blue & Gold middle forwards, fullback Sione Fonua hit a charging Noel Aukafolau to crash over close to the line in the 17th minute.
The Eels effort was immediately rewarded with another converted try, when off the kick off, the Eels spread the ball through the hands before centre Tuimavave Afualo put winger Dunster down the sideline just inside the Eels half.
With cover defence coming across, Dunster found Brown in support who won the race to the try line to plant the ball underneath the posts to give the Eels a 12-0 lead.
The Warriors however held their nerve, and ground their way back into the clash, before a contentious call gifted them the opportunity to attack.
Eels hooker Ayden Carling penalised for pressure on the kicker and the Warriors made the most of their opportunity inside the Eels red zone. A skilful 20m cut out ball from five-eighth Paul Turner on the last tackle putting his winger Harley Maynard over in the corner for their first points of the afternoon.
Similar to the Eels, the Warriors first try led to another. Warriors Turner was in the thick off the action again, this time with an individual effort that saw him find his way to the tryline.
A step and a swerve before a turn of pace left the Eels clutching at thin air as the dove over in the corner for a converted try.
The Eels taking a 12-10 lead into the sheds at half time.
The second stanza kicked off exactly like the first, with a softening up period from both sides at each team looked to gain the ascendancy.
A strong kicking game from Brown kept the Warriors pinned inside their own end for long portions of play and this was backed up down the other end of the field.
Strong and tough returning charges from outside backs Tuimavave Afualo and Sione Fonua from inside the Eels end kick started the Blue & Gold sets before Utoikamanu and Keppie returned for their second efforts on the field with the same enthusiasm that saw them start the clash.
Back and forth football saw both sides desperate for points, desperate defence, and despite a few missed opportunities from both sides to ice the game, it wasn’t until the final minute of play that saw the Eels secure the two points.
A big defensive effort from Utoikamanu, Keppie and Dylan Clifford saw the Warriors prop being driven backwards and the ball jolting free to gift the Eels strong field position.
Off the scrum, a little bit of footwork at the line from forward Beni Valu found himself drawing in the winger before a basketball style offload pass over the top found Dunster diving over out wide for the match securing try.
A conversion from the sideline saw Todd Sapienza kick three from three for the afternoon, with the Eels claiming a grinding 18-10 victory over the Warrors in New Zealand.
Parramatta Eels Jersey Flegg 18 (Tries: Noel Aukafolau, Dylan Brown, Haze Dunster; Goals: Todd Sapienza 3/3)
New Zealand Warriors 10 (Tries: Harley Maynard, Paul Turner; Goals: Eiden Ackland)