Parramatta have spoiled the Warriors’ party to take out the Auckland Nines but have put their champagne on ice as they focus on breaking their NRL top-eight drought.
The Eels produced a massive boilover in front of a fervent Eden Park crowd on Sunday, claiming a ruthless 22-4 win in the final.
Boasting livewire guns in Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and playing on home soil, the Warriors went in saddled with expectation however the lightly rated Eels pulled off an upset with some enterprising football.
Heavily hyped youngster Bevan French was a standout across both days – topping the try-scoring tables with eight four-pointers, winger Semi Radradra was at his destructive best while Corey Norman was named player of the tournament.
It was the Eels’ first piece of silverware since the 2004 World Sevens and coach Brad Arthur said cultivating a winning culture was significant for a club which had not won a premiership since 1986.
However, he emphasised it counted for little as the side turned their attention to the season proper and breaking their four-year absence from the finals.
“It’s important,” Arthur said of the win. “We want to be a team that comes here and strives to compete at everything we do and I think we showed plenty of competitiveness here today.
“But we just need to go back, relax and get ready for a big year.”
The Eels blew the Warriors off the park early and the home side never recovered.
French continued his strong push for a NRL starting spot when he opened the scoring, picking up the spoils when the Warriors failed to clean up a Luke Kelly midfield bomb.
The Eels controlled all the early field position and, when a Norman cut-out pass sent Semi Radradra over for his sixth try of the tournament, they were well in control at 11-0.
The Warriors were given a glimmer of hope when money man Tuivasa-Sheck weaved through the defensive line but the Eels killed off the game soon after when Vai Toutai crossed on the back of a Tepai Moeroa break.
Halfback Johnson spent most of the second half limping with a leg injury but said it was a cork and he would be fit for his side’s next trial.
“It’s a bit sore. I just got a knock on it so I’ll be right,” Johnson said.
Coach Andrew McFadden denied his team suffered stage fright and were put off by the hype around them.
“I just think we couldn’t get on the board, we didn’t have any possession or field position and we had to chance our arm – we had to score points,” McFadden said.
“Things didn’t go our way.”