TWL RD 4 WRAP: WARRIORS REPAY KEARNEY’S FAITH

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After the harrowing, bottom-of-the-barrel lows of the past fortnight, any sort of win was always going to earn the embattled Warriors a solid pass mark – particularly after coach Stephen Kearney brushed outside pressure and stuck solid with his underperforming line-up.

And while the sloppy Gold Coast Titans did just about everything they could to hand two competition points to their hosts on a platter, the Warriors’ 26-10 victory at Mount Smart was a significant and sizeable step in the right direction.

The Warriors put a pair of unacceptable defensive displays in the rearview mirror by keeping their tryline intact for almost an hour, leading 20-0 before the Titans broke through. On the other side of the ball, Blake Green, Peta Hiku, Jazz Tevaga and Tohu Harris responded to some subpar performances with starring roles on offence in the four-tries-to-two victory.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, inevitably, was magnificent once again.

But the biggest storyline of the night was a no-brainer: The polished debut of five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita. The (only just) 20-year-old grew in confidence as the game wore on, making a series of dangerous runs and producing several fine passes. He also made a pile of tackles to quell concerns over his defence.

It could be argue dumped rookie Adam Keighran would also have shone against such modest opposition, but Harris-Tavita clearly possesses the extra spark the Warriors have desperately been missing.

After withstanding a stack of self-inflicted pressure on their own line, the Warriors struck first through a brilliant cut-out ball from Green, who broke the shackles of two unimpressive outings on attack.

Hiku latched onto Green’s peach of a pass and navigated his way to the try-line through the Titans’ cover defence, continuing a strong start to the game for the under-pressure centre.

Harris-Tavita warmed the cockles of Warriors fans’ hearts by using a subsequent fifth-tackle play near the Titans’ line to take the defence on, while Tuivasa-Sheck made a stunning – yet customary, such is his genius – try-saving tackle on Anthony Don a few minutes later.

Cheap penalties and an inability to halt the Titans’ go-forward were notable first-half negatives, however.

A dangerous challenge on a kicking Green gave Harris-Tavita a simple chance to boot the Warriors to an 8-0 lead in the 35th minute.

David Fusitu’a – the NRL’s top try-poacher last year – then broke his 2019 duck off the back of slick work from Adam Blair and Tuivasa-Sheck, zipping down a narrow corridor to dot down.

Hiku, Harris-Tavita and Jazz Tevaga made early ball-running inroads in a confident start to the second half. A searching Green kick attracted another penalty, allowing Harris-Tavita to push the Warriors out to 14-0.

The Titans had attempted to keep Tuivasa-Sheck out of the game at all costs, but the Warriors skipper exploded in the 49th minute after steaming onto a deft short ball from Green. RTS stood up opposite number Michael Gordon with dazzling footwork to score a 35-metre try.

Extensive Titans pressure and some very ordinary goal-line defence on winger Dale Copley finally saw the visitors landed on the scoreboard at the hour mark.

The technique of Green and Blair was put under a harsh spotlight as the oft-maligned Copley forced his way over.

The Titans pegged their way back into the game further with 16 minutes to go, TWL Podcast favourite Anthony ‘The Don’ Don capitalising on a no-man’s-land defensive effort from Ken Maumalo to dive over in the corner.

But just as nerves started to creep in, Tohu Harris sealed the result – and put an indifferent start to the season behind him – with a powerhouse solo try in the 72nd minute.

Harris-Tavita held up a nice pass for Harris in the lead-up, another telling sign of the 20-year-old’s class in an ultra-composed debut.

But the Warriors’ litmus test comes in the next few rounds. Road trips to take on currently-unbeaten heavyweights South Sydney and Melbourne bookend a home clash with North Queensland in the next three weeks.

The error-riddled Titans put minimal pressure on the Warriors, who also gave away far too many penalties. A 30/34 completion rate would have been particularly pleasing for Stephen Kearney.

A long way to go but definitely something to build on.

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Categories: Previews + Reviews, WARRIORS NEWS

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  1. TWL Rd 5 Preview: Warriors v Rabbitohs | This Warriors Life | NRL
  2. The Rivalry: Warriors v Titans | This Warriors Life | NRL

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