Eels stun Warriors
Parramatta begin the 2014 NRL Season with a convincing 36-16 victory over the New Zealand Warriors.PT0M0S 620 349
This was a debutant's ball.
For Manu Ma'u it was his first game. For William Hopoate, his first for a very long time. For Corey Norman and Nathan Peats it was their first in blue and gold.
Hard man to ground: Parramatta's Will Hopoate. Photo: Brendon Thorne
And while Brad Arthur had held the clipboard for the club previously, this time it was his first as the boss rather than a fill in.
All of them should be well pleased with their work.
Hopoate's last game, for Manly in the 2011 grand final, resulted in a premiership ring. The stakes weren't as high at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday night but the result was another win.
Front runner: Manu Ma'u of the Eels was strong throughout the opening round match against the Warriors. Photo: Matt King
"There are things I can definitely improve on to help the team. We're just happy to get the result but there's still a long way to go," Hopoate said.
"I got a few knocks early, got tossed around a little bit. It was a good welcome back to the elite game."
Indeed. He set up a try and ran for 115 metres. But his Eels debut was not as impressive of that of Ma'u.
The powerful backrower's dream was to play for the Warriors, but that was dashed by a three-year jail stint for his role in a brawl. Instead, he made his NRL debut against them, notching seven tackle busts in his 14 runs for 171 metres. He said seeing his mother, Monika, in the crowd beforehand moved her to tears.
"I know she will be happy, she will be proud," he said afterwards.
Eels co-captain Jarryd Hayne praised all of the new recruits but saved a special mention for Ma'u.
"Manu Ma'u was the one who stood out the most for me," he said.
"Corey Norman and Peats are sort of established, we knew what they would bring. But Manu was great for us tonight, his aggression in defence and the way he ran the ball and targeted their halves was great. It definitely got a lot of momentum for us."
With their next opponents the Roosters and then Manly, they will need to build on that momentum.
Wingers Semi Radradra and Vai Toutai scored hatricks, Hayne crossed and was controversially disallowed a spectacular try by the video referee that both Hayne and Arthur felt was legitimate. But it was their ability to restrict a Warriors side including Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins which most pleased the coach.
"The things that really impressed me the most was the boys' attitude in defence," Arthur said.
"We had a period in the first half where we defended five sets, got the ball back and went up the other end of the field and scored some points. Defensively we were strong."
Asked if the performance, so early in the season and with so many new faces, had exceeded his expectations, Arthur said: "I didn't have any expectations on the actual performance, I just wanted to make sure they had a real desire and want. We talked about just finding a way to do things. It's not always going to be pretty and the scoreline doesn't reflect to me what we did during the week. It's just finding a way to get the two points and we managed to do that."