By STEVE MASCORD
LIGHTWEIGHT Parramatta winger Etu Uaisele last night recalled how he feared being knocked out by Manu Vatuvei for the second time in a month before making the tackle which left ‘The Beast’ sidelined indefinitely and the Eels on the way to a winning start to their 2011 campaign.
The luckless Vatuvei will undergo scans today after snapping the medial ligament in his right knee early in Parramatta’s 24-18 win over the Warriors in front of their biggest-ever home crowd, 38,412. Stephen Kearney’s Eels led 24-6 before a stirring Warriors revival in the final 12 minutes.
Vatuvei is out for between two months and the rest of the season.
“He’s pretty big, I had to throw everything I had,” Uaisele told the Sunday Telegraph when asked about the 14th-minute confrontation which saw him the only thing between 112kg Vatuvei and the tryline.
“I said to the boys ‘I’ve just got to throw my body in front of him, whatever happens’. He’s a big guy I had to throw 94 kg at him.
“It was the same thing as the last time I played him in the trials. I did the same thing – and got knocked out.”
While there was initially some conjecture over the tackle, the Aucklanders had no complaints. “When Manu’s in front of you, you do whatever you can to stop him,” said coach Ivan Cleary.
Vatuvei was a forlorn sight as he watched the second half in a leg brace. He broke an arm in Four Nations four short months ago. “It’s obviously a significant knee injury but we’re hoping for the best,” said Cleary.
On the back of Melbourne-like control and muscle, Parramatta eeked out a 14-0 lead by the half-hour mark before centre Jerome Ropati gave his side a sniff with a 36th-minute touchdown.
Warriors Lance Hohaia and Glen Fisiahi were profoundly troubled by high kicks from Jarryd Hayne throughout but Kearney denied targeting his New Zealand Test fullback. “That was not part of our plan,” he said.
Having broken the 1500-point barrier in the first half, veteran Parramatta winger Luke Burt moved to within one try of the club record with a double after the break which gave his side their 18-point advantage.
Few fans left, however, and their loyalty was rewarded by tries to Ropati (68 mins) and Lewis Brown (71) before late Parramatta inclusion FuiFui MoiMoi put an exclamation mark on the result by smashing Hohaia.
There were further dramas in the second half when Warriors five-eighth James Maloney took out fullback Hayne off the ball and high, earning him a mention in the referees’ report.
“It’s just tough – he’s obviously timed his run because he thought I was going to catch it as he got me,” said Hayne. “It was one of those torpedo bombs – it looked like it was coming to me but then it turned at the last minute. It was just unlucky.
“I know him from when he played over in Parra. He apologised after the game and that was it.”
Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh warned the club’s army of fans against getting too excited. “It’s only one game – we’ve got the whole season in front of us,” second rower Hindmarsh said. “I suppose we’ll get a a bit carried away tonight, enjoy tonight, and then back into Monday for Friday against Penrith.”
PARRAMATTA 24 (L Burt 2 J Robson J Hayne tries J Hayne 4 goals) bt WARRIORS 18 (J Ropati 2 L Brown tries J Maloney 3 goals) at Eden Park. Referees: S Lyons/C James. Crowd: 38,412.
Filed for: SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Toyota Cup fulltime: Warriors 20 Parramatta 16
Final team lists:
WARRIORS: Lance Hohaia; Glen Fisiahi, Joel Moon, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei; James Maloney, Brett Seymour; Micheal Luck, Lewis Brown, Simon Mannering, Russell Packer, Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman. Res: Sam Rapira, Feleti Mateo, Shaun Berrigan, Ben Matulino.
PARRAMATTA: Jarryd Hayne; Luke Burt, Chris Walker, Ryan Morgan, Etu Uaisele; Daniel Mortimer, Jeff Robson; Justin Horo, Taniela Lasalo, Nathan Hindmarsh (c), Mitchell Allgood, Casey McGuire, Tim Mannah. Res: Matthew Keating, Shane Shackleton, Ben Smith, FuiFui MoiMoi.
Referees: Steve Lyons/Chris James