Manly forward Addin Fonua-Blake has announced he has signed with the Warriors after asking for a release from the Sea Eagles so he could leave Sydney.
The numbers the Warriors were able to post in their impressive Round 12 victory over the Wests Tigers would take a team very close to winning most NRL matches.
Nine players ran for more than 100 metres in a team total of 1700 at the prestigious Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night. The Warriors restricted the Tigers to 1315.
Possession also swung in the Warriors’ favour, claiming a match total of 54 per cent, but a more dominate second half saw an even better 58 per cent registered.
Compounding the woes of Kiwis and Tigers coach Michael Maguire, the completion rate was above 80 per cent from the new-look Warriors. Although in the only bright light for the Tigers, their match completion rate was almost 90 per cent.
So the win is looking all the more well deserved when you look deeper into it.
Territory was evenly shared overall, but the Tigers did have a small advantage in the second half with 53 per cent.
Although Maguire’s men were made to make only 32 more tackles (352), this number should be greater, and does show both Blake Green and Kodi Nikorima could have had a greater influence in attack, especially with last tackle options.
That might be a bit harsh this week, as they were the winning halves in the match, and did oppose a fairly handy opponent in the Tigers’ number seven jersey, Kiwis great Benji Marshall.
However there were three forced drop outs, so this was an all round much improved performance from the Warriors.
Before I give an overview on some other impressive individual performances, things Todd Payten will be looking to improve in the coming rounds will be the missed tackles (30) and errors (11).
In a continuation of previous matches this season, the Warriors were inconsistent over both halves, but were the better team when it mattered, with a strong second 40 minutes.
Skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck again led the attack with another double century of run metres, posting 226.
Tohu Harris had 158 metres, 36 tackles and a match-sealing 63rd minute try. He was again a star in the Warriors’ winning performance.
Jazz Tevaga relished starting at lock. The former Dally M interchange player of the year was prominent in the middle for the Warriors, hustling and bustling away for 17 runs, with a return of 143 run metres. The 24-year-old Christchurch-born back-rower did top the tackle count, but only had to make 37.
The Warriors didn’t field their first choice wings but lost nothing as Patrick Herbert (144) and George Jennings (132) also contributed solidly among the run metres.
Peta Hika continues to be the Warriors’ modern day Krisnan Inu. The Kiwis international this time put in a diamond showing, touching down for two thrilling tries.
Jack Hetherington and Lachlan Burr, alongside 20-year-old Eliesa Katoa, also ensured the Warriors had the superior go-forward, allowing hooker Karl Lawton to have his best match in the number nine jersey.
The 24-year-old is signed until the end of 2021 and looks to be the Warriors’ answer at dummy half.
Standing at six foot one, Lawton has bulked up considerably since joining from the Gold Coast Titans in 2018. He was too strong from close range in the 19th minute, powering over for the Warriors opening try that set a tone that the Tigers were unable match as the game went on.
The key to this sort of Warriors performance has been the recent recruitment from the club. All new-comers have added a balance that the squad that was desperately missing both earlier in the season, and in previous years.
Who stays and who goes? Who knows.
But with international forwards Bunty Afoa and Leeson Ah Mau set to rejoin the squad next season, alongside big Ben Murdoch-Masila from the Warrington Wolves, the Warriors won’t lack world-class depth in the forwards.
Hopefully a halfback is found to replace Green, a coach is signed, and Daniel Alvaro, Hetherington and Lawton are retained long term to give the forward pack a good competitive mixture of power and graft for next season.
In the mean time, this make-shift Warriors squad prepares to face the Sea Eagles, the table-topping Penrith Panthers and the bottom-of-the-table Bulldogs.
These three matches are crucial if Payten is a realistic chance of succeeding with his head-coach application.
For long-suffering fans, consistency of performance is now paramount and the team will not get a better opportunity to put that right with this mixture of upcoming matches.
A total of 16 points is available until the completion of this season’s 20-round competition. Extremely optimistically, a further six (out of eight) wins could see the unthinkable with the Warriors sneaking into a place in the top eight, albeit in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Whether this victory over a tough Tigers side proves to be the turning point in what has been a woeful season to date, the recipe that was dished up proved to be a winning one.
More of those ingredients are required for the remainder of 2020 as the Warriors look to build a scintillating sequence to close out this season.