The gulf between the Warriors and the NRL’s ‘big five’ clubs has again been exposed after a nightmare start paved the way for a disappointing 34-18 defeat to Parramatta.
The Warriors trailed 24-0 inside the opening 20 minutes at Suncorp Stadium which, despite a valiant second-half fightback, left them with far too much ground to make up as the Kiwi club fell out of the top eight.
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Warriors forward Tohu Harris is wrapped up by the Eels defence.
Simple dropped balls, penalties on the last tackle, as well as a penalty conceded while in possession; there was nothing magical about the Warriors’ Magic Round performance in the first half and the second-placed Eels took full advantage.
The Warriors were much better after the break with Reece Walsh at the heart of the fightback, just as he was during last week’s defeat to Manly.
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The 18-year-old fullback, who came off the bench late in the first half, scored a try while running for 160 metres with six tackle breaks, ramping up the pressure on coach Nathan Brown to put him in the run-on side ahead of this Fridays clash against Wests Tigers.
Brown will be sweating on the availability of back-rower Josh Curran, who was forced off with a suspected elbow injury while winger Rocco Berry failed a head injury assessment.
Parramatta are part of an elite group including the Panthers, Rabbitohs, Storm and Roosters who have pulled away from the rest of the competition and Sunday’s result comes after the Warriors were thoroughly outclassed by the latter two sides last month.
Young gun Reece Walsh again stood out for the Warriors.
While the Warriors remain in contention for the finals, their inability to maintain the required intensity for the full 80 minutes shows they are still a long way off from being a true title contender.
They were completely off the pace in the opening quarter, completing just two of their first six sets as the Eels blew them off the park with a four-try blitz.
The Warriors came out with an intent to shift the ball but Kodi Nikorima’s wayward pass, which was dropped by Rocco Berry, set the tone for what was to come.
Forward Nathan Brown opened the scoring from close range courtesy of a superb flick pass by Mitchell Moses before Maika Sivo trampled over Berry, who tried his best but was powerless to stop the rampaging winger.
Prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard then grabbed two tries in three minutes, surprising with his speed and agility for his second after backing up a Moses break from halfway.
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Former Warrior Isaiah Papali’i celebrates Eels teammate Nathan Brown’s try.
As possession eventually evened out the Warriors did have a couple of scoring opportunities. But it wasn’t until the 34th-minute, when Nikorima tapped back a Chanel Harris-Tavita bomb to Curran, that they were able to get on the board.
Walsh had an immediate impact when he entered the fray, making a 50-metre break with his first touch and sending Ken Maumalo down the left flank with a perfect cut-out pass.
However, an uncharacteristic fumble early in the second half by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who was shifted to the wing, put the Eels back on attack, with back-rower Ryan Matterson crossing to extend the lead to 28-6.
Parramatta should have had two more only for Matterson and winger Blake Ferguson to drop the ball over the line.
The Warriors then found themselves with the momentum and a sniff of a miraculous comeback after back-to-back tries to Ben Murdoch-Masila and Walsh.
Trailing by 10 with 18 minutes remaining, the Warriors certainly had their opportunities to set up a grandstand finish.
But they failed to find the line again before Jakob Arthur, son of Eels coach Brad Arthur, capped off a dream debut with a try to seal the result.
Warriors 18 (Josh Curran, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Reece Walsh tries; Kodi Nikorima 3 goals) Eels 34 (Reagan Campbell-Gillard 2, Nathan Brown, Maika Sivo, Ryan Matterson, Jakob Arthur tries; Mitchell Moses 4, Clinton Gutherson goals). HT: 6-24.

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