Thoughts and talking points from a victory that will live long in the memory.
As good as it gets
With no Johnson, Gavet, Lisone, Papali’i or Mannering, the Warriors went into their away assignment against the heavyweight Sydney Roosters with nothing to lose. They came out of it 30-6 winners, slaying an army of doubters and demanding the rugby league world sits up and takes notice.
Unbeaten after four rounds is more than even the most optimistic of Warriors fans could have realistically hoped for, but the manner of their triumph over the Roosters was something else altogether.
The goal-line defence, the aggression, the enthusiasm and confidence – to be quite honest it was hard not to get a bit emotional watching a patched-up Warriors side performing like world-beaters and, yet again in this unbelievable opening to 2018, obliterating expectations.
There’s no stronger way to put their authoritative demolition of the Chooks than to say it was among the top half-dozen regular season victories in the Warriors’ 23-and-a-bit seasons. Whatever happens from here on out, we’ll always have this day.
If this really is a new beginning for the @NZWarriors , then this match provided the most evidence so far. Long way to go for the team, but they are going somewhere. In Heritage jerseys, and looked a bit like the side of 02 and 03. @nzheraldsport
— Michael Burgess (@mikeburgess99) March 31, 2018
Fear no one
While the Warriors deserved every plaudit for their 3-0 start, the Rabbitohs’, Titans’ and Raiders’ other results so far this season provided a bit of perspective on the calibre of opposition the Warriors had defeated.
This one was different. The Roosters are (were?) premiership favourites, packed with superstars and at full strength, and coming off two comprehensive wins over the Bulldogs and Knights after a Round 1 slip-up.
The Warriors dismantled them. Reputations counted for nothing and a team containing four Kangaroos, three Kiwis, plus Tedesco, Mitchell, Keary and Napa were made to look second-rate.
Incredibly, the Warriors are likely to go into their double-header clash with the hotshot Cowboys as favourites. Give them a couple more weeks and they could have plenty of backing to knock off the defending champs on Anzac Day.
Somebody to Lino
Mason Lino had played nine NRL games before yesterday – and lost them all. But that’s not a reflection of the long-serving lower-grader’s quality; he has generally acquitted himself well at the top level.
Lino is certainly no Shaun Johnson, but the 24-year-old brings plenty to the table to more than adequately fill the gap.
He backed up superbly to score the first try, his all-round kicking game was pinpoint, he landed seven from seven off the tee, linked nicely with his teammates on the right edge, and comprehensively outplayed incumbent Australian Test No.7 Cooper Cronk. And he got TWL’s vote as man of the match.
Lino’s stellar stand-in display made a mockery of those fans who complained about letting Ata Hingano leave for Canberra – a whinge ridiculous for too many reasons to get into here.
Meanwhile, there may have been a few rival clubs with misfiring halves taking a pretty close look at the nuggetty Apia-born playmaker, who proved he’s too good for ISP duty.
— Hayley Byrnes (@HayleyByrnes) March 31, 2018
Green for the Blues?
It would be the most un-NSW pick in Origin history, but Blake Green has sensationally entered the Blues halves race for 2018.
Just a week after Luke Keary surged into favouritism for the No.6 jumper, the Roosters five-eighth was overshadowed by a Green master-class – and Blues adviser Greg Alexander and assistant coach Danny Buderus were frothing over the 31-year-old journeyman in Fox Sports’ post-game coverage.
Green was sensational against the Roosters: he threw the second-last pass – all perfectly-timed – in each of the Warriors’ three first-half tries, nailed another 40/20 and pulled the strings with the composure and assuredness the club has been lacking for years.
He provides many of the qualities the Blues have been crying out for, and if Nathan Cleary is unavailable a Green-Maloney combination doesn’t sound so crazy.
Blake Green and James Maloney origin 6 and 7? Thoughts?
— Mark Geyer (@markMGgeyer) March 31, 2018
Hunting as a pack
Stephen Kearney has a nice selection headache coming up.
How does the coach fit Simon Mannering, James Gavet, Sam Lisone and Isaiah Papali’i back into this 17?
The Warriors’ pack was magnificent, gradually wearing down then finishing all over the top of a vaunted Roosters unit including Napa, JWH, Cordner, Taukeiaho and Liu.
It was rip-and-tear stuff to warm the cockles of Kevin Campion, Micheal Luck, Sam Rapira, Jerry Seuseu, Ruben Wiki, Awen Guttenbeil and other hardheads of successful Warriors team of seasons long gone.
Adam Blair produced easily his best and busiest performance so far for the Warriors; Bunty Afoa was an Okesene-like beast starting up front after starring as an edge interchange in the opening three rounds; Agnatius Paasi was dynamic; Leivaha Pulu was virtually a replica of second-row partner Tohu Harris on the opposite side; and Jazz Tevaga, Chris Satae and Ligi Sao kept the momentum and aggression going from the bench.
There’s no pack in the NRL going better – and the club’s engine-room depth is massively encouraging.
Bunty Afoa was Beasty Afoa yesterday. Dude was killing it. @NZWarriors
— Stephen W T Gallagher (@SWTGallagher) March 24, 2018
The Warriors’ all-time winning record on the road sits around the 36 percent mark. Last year, they won just one of 13 games away from their Mount Smart base. The club is burdened by travel more than any other and it’s long been viewed as a significant factor in the Warriors’ struggles.
But this squad seems to love being on tour together.
Winning their first four games is remarkable enough; to clinch victories in Perth, Canberra and Sydney to do it is extraordinary – and so un-Warriors-like. The Warriors have now won three consecutive away games for the first time since their 2011 grand final campaign.
The fact they still have another 11 games at home (plus one in Christchurch) is a huge boost to their burgeoning playoffs prospects.
Expat on the back
Of course, it’s a bit easier to thrive on the road when you’ve got majority crowd support. The Warriors fans at Allianz Stadium were brilliant, drowning out the home supporters and riding their team to the fulltime whistle.
The chanting that came over the TV coverage was spine-tingling – reminiscent of the club’s 2002-03 finals campaigns. But they didn’t need Uncle Eric to fork out for their tickets this time.
We’re already looking forward to hearing the noise when the team heads to traditional Warriors supporter strongholds Suncorp Stadium and Cbus Super Stadium later in the year. Not to mention Mount Smart during our upcoming three-game homestand…