Thoughts and talking points from the Warriors first loss of 2018, a pancake-flat 27-18 defeat to the Broncos.
Outmuscled, outenthused, outgunned
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney hit the nail on the head: “I have to give credit to Brisbane, they came here with a real commitment and intent about them right from the outset and we didn’t match that.”
The Broncos just seemed to want it more, and in wet conditions at Mount Smart that traditionally favour the Warriors, the under-pressure and injury-ravaged visitors showed far more intensity in every facet. They were desperate after two bad losses – and it showed in everything they did.
The rivals shared possession 50-50 but the Broncos ran for 220 metres more and dominated the middle third, turning the tables on a Warriors pack and back-five that had made a habit of rolling through teams in the opening five rounds.
The Warriors pulled back to level with tries twice in the first half, but – as they had done so well in previous outings – they struggled to back it up. The effort on the back of effort just wasn’t there.
The Warriors actually missed less tackles than the Broncos overall but switching off at key times proved their defensive Achilles heel.
Lazy arm-grabbing efforts allowed Corey Oates to maraud in-field for the first try of the match, while James Roberts forced his way between Blake Green and Solomone Kata with embarrassing ease to set up Jamayne Isaako for the Broncos’ second.
The Warriors were also unable to replicate the goal-line resoluteness that characterised their performances in the opening five rounds – and Jadyn Su’a and Isaako took full advantage during the second half.
Gelling not gelling
Former Wigan cult hero Anthony Gelling received his first NRL call-up for the injury-hit Warriors’ Round 4 match-up with the Roosters, making a late appearance from the pine. It surprised that Kearney retained the rangy centre on the bench last week at the expense of Ligi Sao, but he did little wrong (or didn’t have the opportunity to) after entering the fray in the dying stages as the Warriors shut out the Cowboys.
Yesterday, with Kata hobbling off, he was pitched into the action late with the game on the line – and Gelling bottled it big time. Two appalling dummy-half passes bookended a terrible handling error that saw a try go begging.
It was one of the most diabolical cameos in recent memory.
I feel for the guy, but that was one of the worst cameos in Warriors history
— James Macbeth Dann (@edmuzik) April 14, 2018
There may be a misconception that the rangy Gelling, with the build of a back-rower, offers some sort of versatility, but he’s only ever played wing or centre at Super League level. Including the enigmatic Gelling on the bench while the likes of the reliable backline utility Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad run around in reserve grade is a real puzzler from the coach.
With Gerard Beale and Isaiah Papali’i nearing a return, there’s surely no way Gelling can command a spot in a full-strength Warriors 17.
However, with Kata set to miss a month and Blake Ayshford currently sidelined with a back injury, Gelling is the front-runner to start in Friday’s crunch game against the Dragons – though Nicoll-Klokstad and untried trio Joseph Vuna, Hayze Perham and Lewis Soosmea are options to come onto the wing if Kearney opted to move David Fusitu’a to centre.
But top marks to the fella for poking a bit of fun at his forgettable contribution.
— Anthony Gelling (@AnthonyGelling) April 14, 2018
Blair’s numbers don’t add up
An underwhelming individual performance is exacerbated when your team loses and your opposite number is the best player on the field, but it’s an uncomfortable truth that the Warriors are not getting enough output from Adam Blair when the going gets tough.
Warriors No.13 Blair put up 21 tackles and seven runs for 61 metres; Broncos lock Josh McGuire ate up 30 tackles and 16 carries for 140 metres.
To put Blair’s modest numbers in perspective, of the other starting locks in Round 6 (besides Paul Gallen and Tepai Moeroa, who both exited in the first half with injuries) only Isaac Liu – who is usually a bit of a stats monster – and Tim Glasby didn’t outperform Blair in both of the aforementioned categories.
The loss to the Broncos was the Warriors’ only match in 2018 where their pack didn’t completely dominate besides the comeback win over Canberra – when Blair somehow came up with just three hit-ups. The Warriors can’t afford for a middle starter of Blair’s status and price-tag to repeatedly go missing.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Tohu Harris were typically superb in a well-beaten side, but given his comparative status it’s hard to go past Agnatius Paasi as the Warriors’ standout performer in Round 6.
Gradually cementing his spot as a prop starter, Paasi was just about the best player on the field in the opening 20 minutes with eight powerhouse charges that put the Warriors back on the front foot after a tardy start.
Paasi and Bunty Afoa are taking to the role of Warriors front-row kamikazes previously occupied by Okesene, Seuseu, Palea’aesina, Rapira and Matagi – and it’s scary to think how yesterday’s match would have turned out minus the pair’s gusto.
Agnatius Paasi tearing shit up and it's not the 9's. What's going on there?
— James (@roosterjamez) April 14, 2018
Leivaha Pulu has been a revelation on the Warriors’ left edge and his departure midway through the first half against the Broncos was a telling blow. The extent of his injury is yet to be disclosed, but assuming he is unavailable for next week, who gets the second-row spot?
Simon Mannering filled in after Pulu went off and has to come back into the starting pack regardless, but is the team better served with the veteran back in his more familiar No.13 guise? Then there’s Isaiah Papali’i, the first-choice left-edge forward at the start of the season, who returned from a three-week injury layoff in the ISP on Saturday.
An intriguing call to be made on Team List Tuesday.
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) April 14, 2018
The bounce back
How this loss is ultimately viewed will come down to how the Warriors respond on Friday night in a Mount Smart blockbuster against the 6-0 St George Illawarra Dragons.
The Warriors coughing up their unbeaten record has taken a little bit of the edge off what would have been a promoter’s wet dream, but it should still be an absolute belter of a contest – if the Warriors can regroup and get back to what brought them so much success in the opening five rounds.
A terrible record in the rivalry – winning just one of their last 14 against the Saints – adds an extra element of difficulty to the Warriors’ bid to get back on track.
The boys will be looking to bounce back when we take on the table topping Dragons this Friday night. 😝 v 🐲 #LetsGoneWarriors
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 14, 2018