The Parramatta Eels today beat the New Zealand Warriors 22-4 to secure the 2016 Auckland Nines Trophy.
The Eels, who started rank outsiders, take home both the $370,000 winners’ purse and the thought in the past two years the winning team has gone on to win the premiership.
Parramatta scored in the first minute when Bevan French chased down a kick to score a bonus-zone try that was converted to put the score at 7-0. Semi Radradra scored in the 5th to put the Eels at 11-0. The Warriors hit back with a try to new recruit Roger Tuivasa Sheck, going into half-time at 11-4. Parramatta swiftly regained control as Vai Toutai scored in the right-hand corner (15-4). Corey Norman capped a fantastic tournament to provide a magnificent offload for his teammate Cody Nelson to score a (converted) bonus-zone try in the 16th minute (22-4).
Standouts in the third Nines tournament were Bevan French for the Eels, Jaelen Feeney (Knights), Tyrone Phillips (Bulldogs) and Latrell Mitchell (Roosters). There were also excellent cameos from some of the older hands, with Braith Anasta brilliant for the Roosters, even though they didn’t make the finals, and Matt Bowen reliving his glory days for the North Queensland Cowboys. The Raiders’ Jason Croker, who is in his forties, showed he could still hang with the best of them.
Injuries plagued the tournament, with the Manly Sea Eagles worst hit: Jamie Buhrer suffered a broken jaw and Jayden Hodges will be out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Manly coach Trent Barrett was left struggling to field a full team and called for a change to the rules to allow an “emergency player” to cover when injuries decimate a team.
The Eels were slick throughout the tournament, reaching the finals by beating the Melbourne Storm 17-8 through a double by young-gun Bevan French, who scored eight tries in all. Teammate Semi Radradra finished with five tries. The Warriors’ Shaun Johnson and Solomone Kata were the standout players in their 22-4 semi against the Titans.
The Eels’ Corey Norman was named player of the tournament. – Jesse Mullens
Photo shows Semi Radradra celebrating the win – from the Auckland Nines Twitter feed.