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Parra pile pressure on Storm and top four with vital Warriors win

Parramatta have kept up the pace in their run for the top four by disposing of the New Zealand Warriors and drawing level with the Melbourne Storm on the NRL ladder.

A 28-18 home victory over the 13th placed team in the competition should not be anything to write home about for the Eels, but after several sloppy losses of late, one suspects Brad Arthur will be quietly pleased that this banana skin was avoided.

Parra were made to work for their win. After looking like they were going to bulldoze the Warriors early on, they allowed the visitors to storm back into the game and were lucky to take a 10-6 lead to the break.

The second half began inauspiciously, with a raft of handling errors, but once the Eels clicked into gear, they racked up points fast and, in the end, it was a comfortable win.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who many thought was unfairly left out of the NSW Blues squad for Wednesday’s decider, racked up 100m running within 25 minutes and set the tone throughout.

His forward companions were just as good: all five starters made 100m plus, while Oregon Kaufusi and Makahesi Makatoa came close to that mark off the bench.

Mitchell Moses was the pick of the backs, providing the composure to right the ship in the second half just when the Eels had begun to list. His kicking, which provoked several errors from the Warriors wingers, was superb.

New Zealand only have pride to play for at this point, but showed plenty of it. At earlier points of the year, when facing a 10-0 scoreline in hostile territory, they would have folded.

They wrested control back late in the first half and played to the end of the second, scoring twice in the final five minutes, though their ongoing issues with errors at crucial stages again limited their ability to compete for long periods.

The Eels started with all guns blazing. They forced three repeat sets of their own, then got two set restarts to build massive pressure on the Warriors line.

The Kiwis were resilient. Reece Walsh showed exceptional strength to hold Will Penisini up over the line, wait for his mates to arrive and then take the Eels centre back into the field of play and over the touchline.

The effort was in vain. Whenever Parra got the ball, they pushed the Warriors back and after such a long bout of defending, the defensive line was struggling for speed.

Reed Mahoney was manipulating left and right, drawing markers everywhere, and eventually picking a pass to Waqa Blake for a simple opening try.

The Warriors weren’t without threat. When they got into position, a Shaun Johnson kick caused issues for Penisini, but Walsh failed to hold his crack at the football.

The pressure kept coming, but when Johnson went to throw the killer pass, Maiko Sivo read it perfectly and picked it off.

The winger was cut off by the cover defence, but had the presence of mind to sense Blake over his shoulder and send the centre in for his second. Having not scored since Round 4, he had a double in the first quarter.

Despite the setback, the Warriors weren’t deterred. After another kick caused problems for the Eels’ back three, they eventually made it count: Wayde Egan spotted numbers on the shirt side, Adam Pompey made the slick catch-pass and Marcelo Montoya did the rest.

The Warriors’ rejuvenation was remarkable. After 20 minutes, they had barely broached the Eels’ end and were well behind in the possession, but by the break, it was 50/50 and only the intercept try separated the sides.

Both sides began the second half sluggishly, combining for five errors in the first ten minutes after the break, with three penalties thrown in for good measure. It was hardly champagne stuff.

For Parramatta, it was a case of getting back to first principles. They tightened up, ran hard and got into the right end of the field, before enacting one of their favourite moves – a back-rower charging back on the angle – to send Isaiah Papali’i over.

On the set after points, Mitchell Moses sent up a steepler that Montoya made a mess of, allowing the ball to slip between his hands. Bailey Simonsson picked up and while he couldn’t get over, he smuggled the ball out of the back and it fell fortuitously to Clint Gutherson.

The Eels had largely cut out their errors, but the same could not be said for the Warriors. Their second half completion rate had dropped to close to 50% and the visitors were proving little match for Parramatta in the middle.

After they were forced to kick early, the chase was uneven and Gutherson spotted it. He chucked a long ball to Dylan Brown, who went around Jack Murchie with ease and sent Sivo along the touchline for a crowd-pleasing try.

There was time for Edward Kosi to add a consolation – the Warriors never stopped – and Jack Murchie rounded off the scoring with a minute to play.

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