The Warriors kicked off 2019 with a solid 12-6 win over an error-riddled Melbourne Storm outfit in Geelong.
Stephen Kearney may have seen some different qualities from his charges, but the much talked about halves picture only seems more muddied after top No.7 contenders Adam Keighran and Chanel Harris-Tavita largely failed to grasp their opportunity in 60 minutes on the field.
Hayze Perham, the third rookie option in the puzzle to replace Shaun Johnson but predominantly regarded as a fullback, outshone them both in 40 minutes in the halves.
Teaming up in the first half, Keighran and Harris-Tavita appeared uncertain, while neither displayed a desire to run the ball or come up with anything inventive in the passing and kicking departments. Harris-Tavita had a hand in the Warriors’ first try, forced a line drop-out and directed traffic adequately but lacked spark. Keighran’s prodigious boot was most positive feature of his outing.
Perham, meanwhile, played with confidence and purpose. His match-winning individual try came out of thin air and was a shimmering highlight in a fairly drab affair. Question marks over his ability to steer a team around may count against him.
Patrick Herbert, who played the first half at fullback and the final quarter at centre, was a clear standout for the Warriors. The Whakatane-born 22-year-old has returned to New Zealand after a couple of years at St George Illawarra and staked a claim for an NRL call-up with a try-assist, powerful carries from the back and strong defence.
Hooker Sam Cook was another to impress, Bunty Afoa looked a class above up front, and Lachlan Burr first outing in a Warriors jumper oozed first-grade standard. Sam Lisone and Ligi Sao also did their chances of an NRL recall no harm.
Slick work out the back from Herbert saw winger Neria Fomai zip in untouched for the sixth-minute opener. Keighran drilled the conversion from the sideline in a reminder of a vital attribute he brings to the table.
Nate Roache, making his return from a year-long back injury layoff at hooker, and Burr made early breaks. At the same time, the Warriors let the Storm through with brittle defence in behind the ruck.
The Warriors had a string of attacking opportunities in the second quarter but never really threatened to score, aside from a last-tackle dab over the top from Herbert – whose robust ball-running was causing the Storm problems – created a half-chance Fomai was unable to grasp.
But the visitors went into halftime with a clean defensive sheet, put under only moderate pressure by Melbourne’s scrappy offence.
What’s with the passes to the chests in this game. Seriously. #NRLTrials
— Savannah Tafau-Levy (@vannahtafaulevy) February 22, 2019
Perham replaced Keighran at halftime and added speed and energy, immediately showing his intent to take the defensive line on.
Cook tainted a fine game by getting sin-binned for a professional foul after a long Storm break in the 58th minute.
After returning for the final quarter at centre, Herbert produced another highlight-reel moment with a punishing tackle on Scott Drinkwater near the Warriors’ line.
The Storm belatedly got on the scoreboard and levelled up in the 67th minute through a Cheyse Blair try – from a pass that went roughly five metres forward.
But the Warriors recovered the ball from the kick-off and Perham scored a sizzling 20-metre solo try from a standing start, showcasing his pace and footwork to give the Warriors a 12-6 lead and Stephen Kearney a whole buffet for thought.
Has Hayze Perham bulked up or have I just not been paying attention?
— 2019 man (@Greeniecg) February 22, 2019