Parramatta shut down the Vodafone Warriors to take out the Downer NRL Auckland Nines with a convincing 22-4 win at Eden Park on Sunday.
The home side had reached the final for the first time on the back of second day victories over Brisbane, Canberra and Gold Coast but the rigours of the tournament impacted on them in the decider.
The Eels came out of the blocks strongly and rarely let up as they dominated possession and territory.
From their first set a Luke Kelly bomb wasn’t covered, the ball bouncing towards the line and offering Bevan French a gift eighth try of the tournament, and a five-point bonus one at that.
When the Vodafone Warriors were stretched handling another Parramatta kick they were forced to concede a goal-line dropout. The repeat set delivered the Eels further joy, shifting the ball wide to the left for the unmarked Semi Radradra to score wide out.
Down 0-11 the Vodafone Warriors immediately struck when Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck combined down the right, the latter gliding onto Johnson’s pass and jinking his way to the line.
At 4-11 the Vodafone Warriors weren’t out of it but they needed to be next to score.
Instead they were hit by setbacks. Johnson left the field with a corked thigh – although he did return a few minutes later to see out the match – and fleet-footed Henare Wells was forced off the field when he pulled a hamstring chasing after an attacking kick.
With those disruptions the Eels wound up the intensity, a storming Tepai Moeroa break leading to a try on the right for Vai Toutau.
At 15-4 it was effectively game, set and match but Parramatta finished the job with a bonus zone try for Cody Nelson off a slick pass by player of the tournament Corey Norman.
Later head coach Andrew McFadden and Johnson both echoed the team’s disappointment in failing to win the tournament when they had the opportunity. However, McFadden insisted the coming NRL season was necessarily the team’s primary focus and reaching the Nines final had been a real positive. Johnson was delighted from a personal viewpoint because the tournament had enabled him to gain further confidence in his recovery from his ankle injury.
Another positive was the inclusion of Johnson and Tuimoala Lolohea in the team of the tournament. Both were impressive throughout.
The action-packed second day was also highlighted by the Kiwi Ferns’ two Nines victories over the Jillaroos, giving them a series win 2-1.
Vodafone Warriors 4 (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck try).
Parramatta Eels 22 (Bevan French, Semi Radradra, Vai Toutai, Cody Nelson tries; Corey Norman conversion; Luke Kelly conversion).
Halftime: 11-4 Eels.