TWL RD 9 WRAP: WARRIORS WIN UGLY, WIN WELL AGAINST TIGERS

There were some oh-so-pretty moments, but it was the ugly nature of the Warriors’ 26-4 victory over Wests Tigers that impressed most at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.

The Warriors produced the ideal bounce-back to their 40-point loss to Melbourne 10 days earlier, conceding just one try and keeping a clean sheet in the second half as they capitalised on a 12-4 halftime scoreline.

But the club faces a nervous wait after superstar trio Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson and Adam Blair all left the field with serious-looking injuries during a narrow second-half window.

Johnson sparkled before limping off with a deeply concerning leg injury in the 69th minute, toying with the Tigers’ defence to lay on the first try and score himself off a long-range movement he started.

The Tigers were ordinary, getting sloppier and dropping their intensity as the game wore on. But the Warriors’ energy and composure contributed heavily to those shortcomings. The hosts’ scramble defence and reads without the ball were a constant highlight.

Perhaps the highlight was interchange utility Karl Lawton’s match-sealing double inside the final 20 minutes.

Lawton broke his leg in his NRL debut for Gold Coast in Auckland in 2016, but the late addition to the Warriors’ squad made his initial first-grade outing for the club count with two nicely-taken tries to turn 16-4 into a 22-point lead with 10 minutes left.

The Warriors made most of the early running with Bunty Afoa particularly prominent, before landing on the scoreboard in the 13th minute. Beautiful hands from Adam Blair and Shaun Johnson released David Fusitu’a on a regulation streak to the corner for his 11th try of 2018.

The Tigers were put under the blowtorch courtesy of the sin-binning of David Nofoaluma, whose opposing winger, Ken Maumalo, was narrowly denied a try in the ensuing set by the touchline.

But the in-form Maumalo marked his 50th NRL appearance with his, *cough*, 12th career try soon afterwards, strolling in off a looping Blake Green pass. Warriors 10-0 after 28 minutes.

For context, Fusitu’a’s opener gave him a career strike-rate of 0.65 per game…Maumalo is batting at a front-rower-like 0.24. But don’t get us wrong – we’re loving the big fella’s metre-eating efforts, improved defence and minimised error-rate.

The visitors hit back while still a man short, Mahe Fonua producing a remarkable mullet-powered putdown despite heavy contact from Fusitu’a.

The Warriors pushed the halftime margin out to eight points with a late penalty goal.

The second stanza began disastrously for the Tigers, with their ill-discipline late in the first half sticking in referee Ben Cummins’ mind as he spelled ex-Warrior Elijah Taylor for 10 minutes for being offside near his goal-line.

A sloppy decoy run from Peta Hiku denied David Fusitu’a yet another double in the next set as the Bunker correctly ruled an obstruction.

But that merely set the scene for a sizzling 60-metre try started and finished by Johnson. Running the ball on the last and skirting around two Tigers defenders, the halfback linked with Hiku, who slipped a neat pass for Fusitu’a.

The tryscorer extraordinaire turned provider with the inside pass for Johnson to bag his second of the year.

The Warriors’ run of injuries began when Luke – who ironically made a miraculous recovery from a knee complaint to play in this game – reeled out of a tackle clutching a shoulder, which brought Lawton into the game.

The Tigers avoided further calamity before Taylor’s return, but Lawton put the result to bed with a quick-fire double – scoring from close range in the 67th and 70th minutes, either side of Johnson and Blair’s simultaneous exit – to emphatically bury his Mount Smart demons.

He’ll likely face a heavy workload with Luke, belatedly it could be said, facing a stint on the sidelines.

The match petered out thereafter, but the main takeaway was the Warriors putting the Anzac Day debacle behind them in decisive style. Green, Afoa, Maumalo, Tohu Harris and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were the standouts alongside No.7 wizard Johnson.

It came with a caveat, though – the Warriors’ injury toll, which could potentially have a big impact on their upcoming schedule and beyond.

Warriors 26 (Karl Lawton 2, David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo Shaun Johnson tries; Johnson 3 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 4 (Mahe Fonua try) at Mount Smart Stadium.

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