‘He looked terrified as Fifita came towards him!’
The Warriors defeated the Broncos on Saturday, continuing a Broncos drought in New Zealand dating back to 2009.
The game won’t feature on many highlight reels; it was a typical winter’s night in Auckland, with two teams cancelling each other out for long periods.
The one takeaway from the game was that the New Zealand side showed they are the real deal.
The Warriors didn’t play very well in the first half, coughing up ball and lacking intensity. The period just before half time was crucial, as they managed to jump out to a 13–6 lead.
Winning ugly is something all good teams have the ability to do, and it appears the Warriors under Andrew McFadden are learning to do it. Grounding out results isn’t something the Warriors are famous for, but the stats indicate they finally get it.
There were only four line breaks for the Warriors, yet eight players ran for over 100 metres, and another three were close. This showed a true team effort at bringing the ball back. Conversely, the Broncos only had four in three figures and Dale Copley on 94 metres. Defence wins games, but getting good go forward is still key. Missed tackles were 22 to the Warriors and the Broncos 26, which showed the importance of quality metres being made.
Winning ugly is often illustrated by being beaten in most statistical categories except the scoreboard. As such, the Warriors made more errors and had a slightly inferior completion rate (70 per cent to 76 per cent). McFadden also conceded after the game that the Warriors kicking game was below average, their kicking metres were roughly 200 less than the Broncos, and some of the last tackle options left a lot to be desired.
The Broncos around Origin time can really suffer, however this was a game they really turned up for and they will be disappointed not to get the win. They will be confident of returning to winning ways next week against Cronulla, although based on current form, a drop goal may be enough to beat the Sharks.
The tries on Saturday night were well constructed; in particular Sebastian Ikahihifo has made giant strides this year and is making the 13 jersey his own. A good test for how far he has developed will be up against former teammate Elijah Taylor this Sunday.
The biggest disappoint for the Warriors continues to be Sam Tomkins. For a player reportedly one of the highest paid in the NRL, he hasn’t lived up to the hype. Prior to arriving, Tomkins was considered the ‘British Billy Slater’. So far he has been the British Greg Smith.
Tomkins’ handling has been average, and it may actually be that he needs to get his eyes looked at. It may sound strange, but he drops balls cold that should be caught and doesn’t always seem natural when he does. His tackling has been close to non-existent, and for the money he is paid, the one-on-one tackle against Ben Barba should have been made. Tomkins had two goes at it, and also the sideline to help him, but was left in Barba’s dust.
If the Warriors want to go deep into September football, Tomkins needs to start providing a better return on the investment made in him.
The one real low point was the tackle by Ngani Laumape. It was a dangerous tackle and deserved to be on report. However on the NRL sliding scale it wasn’t much worse than what Josh Reynolds successfully fought. The main difference seems to be Laumape isn’t playing Origin, and doesn’t play for a high-profile team. The Warriors have a poor record at the judiciary, and Laumape looks set for a stint on the sideline.
The Warriors beating the Broncos isn’t season defining, however it gets them back to a 50 per cent record, and with a favourable draw over the next few weeks, they should be able to set their season up for the finals.