Rugby league the winner at Auckland Nines

16:11, Feb 15 2014
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
GET READY BOYS: Players are welcomed during the opening ceremony.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
HONGI: Isaac Luke is welcomed to the tourney.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
THINK FAST: Beau Scott of the Knights gets the ball past Todd Carney of the Sharks during the match between Cronulla Sharks and the Newcastle Knights. It wasn't enough though, the Sharks won 15-12.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
THE VICTORS: Wade Graham of the Sharks makes a break during their winning match against the Newcastle Knights.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
ROAR DAMPENED: James Gavet of the Tigers offloads during the match between West Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans, which the Titans won easily at 22-7.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
TRY TIME: David Mead of the Titans scores a try during the match between West Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
REASON TO CELEBRATE: Kalifa Faifai Loa of the Titans celebrates scoring a try as teammate Paul Carter looks on during their winning match against the Tigers.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
RUN RADRADA RUN: The look of joy on Semi Radradra's face is priceless, and he's probably still beaming as the Eels beat the Roosters 18-11.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
BRAD'S BACK: 42-year-old coach Fittler made his on-field debut after 10 seasons, although his team lost its first game and post-game he said: "I felt better running out than I did walking back in."
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
VICTORS: Dale Copley of the Broncos dives over to score a try during the match between Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The Broncos took the game home easily at 20-4.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
WORTH THE MONEY: Sam Tomkins, one of the NZ Warrriors most high-profile signings to date, proved he was worth his salary today - playing a key part in three of the Warriors four tries against the Raiders - the Warriors winning easily at 25-14.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
MOVE ASIDE: Glen Fisiiahi makes a break during the Warriors win against the Raiders.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
SIDE STEP STAR: A key player in the Warriors win against the Raiders, Shaun Johnson stepped, dummied and crossed his way to try time at the five minute mark.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
BOOM: Jesse Sene-Lefao of the Sea Eagles makes against the North Queensland Cowboys - his team brought the first-round game home, beating the Cowboys 17-8.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
RUN RABBIT RUN: Rabbitohs player Tuqiri sprints in for a try. The mighty Dragons were slayed by the bunny Rabbitohs 23-4.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
SHARKS BITTEN: Todd Carney of the Sharks makes a break during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the West Tigers. The Sharks lost to the Tigers 21-15, maybe because they lost a man for five minutes to the sin bin?
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
KNIGHTS V TITANS: Paul Carter of the Titans makes a break, but it wasn't enough, with the Newcastle Knights winning 25-14.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
OUTTA MY WAY: Chris Houston of the Knights makes a break against the Titans.
On-field action Auckland Nines Day One
WHAT A LEGEND: Brad Fittler, 42, celebrates after scoring an intercept try that involved a 60 metre run. All this after 10 seasons out of the game. His team, the Roosters, went on to beat the Broncos 14-7. Fittler's thoughts? He's keen to play in the Nines again next year. What a dude!
Auckland Nines on-field action
POWER MAN: Solomone Kata of the Warriors makes a break against the Sea Eagles.
Auckland Nines on-field action
ORIGIN STAR: Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles looks to attack the Warriors' line.
Auckland Nines on-field action
GREAT HAIR: Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels charges forward against the Bulldogs.
Auckland Nines on-field action
CAUGHT: David Fusitua of the Warriors looks to beat the tackle of Lagi Setu of the Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
LEAP: Fa'amanu Brown of the Sharks dives over for a try during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SHARKED: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks offloads during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
MOMENTUM: Kalifa Faifai Loa charges forward during the match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Gold Coast Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SURROUNDED: Willie Mason of the Knights charges over to score during the match between Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP: Willie Mason of the Knights charges over to score during the match between Newcastle Knights and the Wests Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
JUST: Pat O'Hanlon of the Bulldogs dives over to score a try during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OH HI: Pat O'Hanlon of the Bulldogs offloads during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
TWO ON ONE: Moses Mbye of the Bulldogs charges forward during the match between Canterbury Bulldogs and the Sydney Roosters.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BRONCO`D: Ben Hunt of the Broncos dives over to score during the match between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OUTRUN: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks beats Anthony Don of the Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
NOPE: Jake Mamo of the Knights beats the tackle of Blake Austin of the Tigers.
Auckland Nines on-field action
NUH UH: Corey Parker of the Broncos makes a break during the match between the Parramatta Eels and the Brisbane Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
YOU TRIED: Ricky Leutele of the Sharks scores a try in the tackle of David Mead of the Titans.
Auckland Nines on-field action
MUSCLE: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SPEED: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SWERVE: Sebastine Ikahihifo of the Warriors charges forward during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BOYS: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors celebrates with Sam Tomkins after scoring a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
AWAY LAUGHING: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away to score a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
BOOM: Warriors Charlie Gubb and Solomone Kata celebrate after Solomone Kata's try in their match with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
OVER EASY: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away to score a try during the match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys.
Auckland Nines on-field action
HOLDING ON: New Zealand Warriors player Solomone Kata tries to break the tackle of Javid Bowen from the North Queensland Cowboys.
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BANG: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo crashes through the defence of Kane Linnett, bottom, and Michael Morgan to score against the Cowboys during day two of the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines rugby league tournament held at Eden Park in Auckland.
Auckland Nines on-field action
FLYING: Kodi Nikorima of the Broncos beats the tackle of Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels during the match between the Broncos and the Eels.
Auckland Nines on-field action
GOLDEN EGG: Willie Tonga of the Eels goes close to the tryline during the match between the Eels and the Broncos.
Auckland Nines on-field action
SPRINT: Bill Tupou of the Raiders makes a break to score a try during the match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
LEAN: Steve Menzies of the Sea Eagles charges forward during the match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders.
Auckland Nines on-field action
TRIVIAL: New Zealand Warriors player Shaun Johnson scores under the posts.
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ROAR: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo crashes through the defence of the Cowboys.
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CAN'T TOUCH THIS: Kurt Mann of the Storm charges forward during the match between Melbourne Storm and the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
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STORMING: Tohu Harris of the Storm charges forward during the match between Melbourne Storm and the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
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TRY: Apisai Koroisau of the Rabbitohs beats Matthew Moylan of the panthers to score a try during the match between the Rabbitohs and the Panthers.
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GO FOR IT: Jarrod Mullen of the Knights makes a break during the quarter final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Newcastle Knights.
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BOOM: Apisai Koroisau of the Rabbitohs beats Lewis Brown of the Panthers to score a try.
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OUCH: Wade Graham of the Sharks is hit hard during the quarter final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels.
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IN THE DUST: Dale Copley of the Broncos dives over to score a try during the quarter final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Newcastle Knights.
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SHARKED: Valentine Holmes of the Sharks runs in to score a try during the quarter final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels.
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PRECIOUS: Dylan Walker of the Rabbitohs competes with Solomone Kata of the Warriors for the ball.
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GO FOR IT: Sebastine Ikahihifo of the Warriors makes a break during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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DO IT: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break to score during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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GROUP HUG: Shaun Johnsonof the Warriors celebrates his try during the quarter final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors.
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BOOM: Warriors player Sebastine Ikahihifo celebrates a try in their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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IN THE DUST: Warriors player Konrad Hurrell on the burst during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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ALONE IN FRONT: Warriors player Shaun Johnson gasses the opposition to score a try between the posts during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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FLYING: Warriors player Shaun Johnson gasses the opposition to score a try between the posts during their quarter final match against the Rabbittohs.
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KNEES: Jeremy Latimore of the Panthers charges forward during the quarter final match between the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.
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CROWDED: Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors is tackled during the match between the Warriors and the Rabbitohs.
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EASY: Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys charges forward during the quarter final match between the Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.
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OOPS: Michael Lichaa of the Sharks falls over during the semi final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks.
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DENIED: James Tamou of the Cowboys makes a break during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboys.
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HOLD ON: Tariq Sims of the Cowboys makes a break during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboy.
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CONTRASTS: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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GUTTED: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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BATTLE-WORN: Warriors players react after losing their semifinal match against the Cowboys 8-0.
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CROWD FAVORITES : Warriors players salute the crowd following their semifinal loss.
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WINNERS: Gavin Cooper of the Cowboys charges forward.
Cowboys win
The Cowboys celebrate their win over the Broncos in the grand final of the inaugural Auckland Nines.

This time rugby league really was the winner on the day - a sold out Eden Park could attest to that.

In perfect conditions, blue skies, a dry field and a comfortable 23 degrees, the inaugural NRL Nines kicked off at Auckland on Saturday in a priceless promotion for the code in the rugby union heartland.

It seems hard to believe that NRL clubs initially voted against the concept.

But nothing venture, nothing gained and those same clubs who finally agreed on the concept should be reaping the rewards for years to come.

Aucklanders embraced the shortform event with almost 100,000 fans to pass through the turnstiles over the two days with a number of them sporting costumes on day one.

The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man was there, Cleopatra too and the Joker as well alongside an army of rugby league fans clad in their team's colours. And of course on field there was a streaker.

In a day that had almost everything, comeback king Brad Fittler received the biggest cheer early on his return for the Sydney Roosters after 10 seasons away.

That was before the hometown Warriors roared onto the park to put Canberra to the sword and flex their tournament muscle.

The concourses around the venue were packed with a carnival atmosphere until the Warriors took the field and there wasn't a spare seat in the house and the football took on a far more serious bent.

With pre-tournament favourites leading the way on the field the football was far more intriguing than the now defunct Sevens format.

As anticipated, touch rugby star Shaun Johnson starred for the home side in wins over Canberra and Manly.

The fans were boisterous and happy and the players loved the occasion too.

"It's a great event," Johnson said.

"The crowd is fantastic, it was great to be out there."

Fittler kept up his end of the bargain too, his intercept try in the Sydney Roosters' win over Brisbane keeping them in the tournament.

A possible ACL injury to North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote an obvious downside of the day.

With another day, and the pointy end of the tournament to come, the plot, and the interest is only set to thicken.

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Glen Fisiiahi
GOING HARD: Glen Fisiiahi of the Warriors makes a break at Eden Park.

Fairfax Media