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Alarm bells should be ringing at ear-splitting levels out Penrose way after the Warriors turned in one of the most insipid, weak-hearted efforts in the club’s history –  to go down 46-12 to previously-winless Manly at Rugby League Park in Christchurch.

Both clubs deserve the highest praise for playing a part in the city’s healing process in recent days, but only one team turned up to play in the week’s main event.

A diabolical defensive performance was clearest takeaway for the Warriors, letting their unfancied opponents offload and break the line at will. But their attack – aside from lionhearted showings from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaiah Papali’i – was not much better.

The ‘away’ team enjoyed a dream start, getting on the board after just two minutes courtesy of a remarkable, unlikely kick-and-chase effort from Isaiah Papali’i, who was a late addition to the starting back-row.

But after weathering a couple of subsequent dangerous raids, Manly hit back on the 10-minute mark.

The Sea Eagles scored through Tom Trbojevic’s burrowing effort from close range – just seconds after the returning fullback was nutmegged by a Warriors kick, garnering a fortuitous 20-metre restart.

‘Turbo’s’ first outing of 2019 bore more fruit in the 15th minute, steaming onto a wonderful Addin Fonua-Blake offload before finding Daly Cherry-Evans in support to score the Sea Eagles’ second.

Early optimism gave way to major defensive concerns, with the Warriors unable to contain Manly’s second-phase play. At the end of the set after the kick-off Joel Thompson did a superb job of forcing Cherry-Evans’ searching grubber.

The Warriors’ attempts to hit back were initially more calamitous than calculated. Papali’i’s tunnel-ball pass would have resulted for an 80-metre intercept try for Manly centre Brad Parker if not for Solomone Kata’s gutsy chase and try-saving tackle.

But they landed a vital blow 17 minutes out from halftime with Issac Luke twisting over from an Adam Blair offload.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s superhuman first-half display continued with a second sizzling line-break that finished up just short of the try-line. But the set petered out with Adam Keighran second kick caught on the full by a Manly player in-goal.

The Sea Eagles’ capitalised on the leg-up and more pub footy-standard defence to reclaim a 12-point lead before halftime. Warriors cast-off Toff Sipley embarrassed his former clubmates with an offload in a three-man tackle, allowing Manase Fainu to power through ordinary goal-line D to score.

The Warriors had a string of opportunities to claw their way back into the game early in the second half. They were all brought undone by some of the clunkiest red-zone attack you could have the misfortune of seeing.

The Sea Eagles set a course for an emphatic victory with 21 minutes to go, Tom Trbojevic pouring through another hole and again sending Cherry-Evans over under the posts.

DCE’s 63rd-minute penalty goal effectively ended the match as a contest at 32-12.

The captain then turned provider for Trbojevic as a ricocheted grubber led to the fullback’s second try.

But arguably the most galling moment of the match came in the 70th minute as David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata fell off Parker in excusable fashion, before Jorge Taufua strolled over for the Sea Eagles’ seventh try.

Ken Maumalo gifted Reuben Garrick his first NRL four-pointer with a clumsy attempt to defuse a cross-field kick on his own line – the final humiliation of a truly abhorrent team display.

Where to from here for the Warriors? Their edge defence was shockingly brittle, they were outmuscled for the second week in a row, the halves are struggling for cohesion and creativity, and the whole team – again, discounting the amazing RTS – lacks speed and game-breaking potential.

Stephen Kearney would be extremely brave to take anything resembling a similar line-up into next week’s crunch clash with the Titans, while Brian Smith, Peter O’Sullivan and co. are kidding themselves if they are not immediately trying to figure out how to spend every remaining cent of the salary-cap space freed up by Shaun Johnson’s exit – which is looking increasingly disastrous for the club.

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Categories: Previews + Reviews, WARRIORS NEWS

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