TWL RD 17 WRAP: WARRIORS AND BRONCOS PLAY OUT FRANTIC GOLDEN POINT DRAW

The Warriors are back.

Maybe not in the context of returning to finals contender status just yet. But the daring, mercurial, brilliant-then-abysmal play that has been part of the club’s DNA since 1995 – and has gone missing somewhat under Stephen Kearney’s ‘process’-driven regime – came to the fore in a heart-stopping 18-all draw with equally-desperate Brisbane.

The Warriors led 16-6 at halftime and looked on the verge of putting the Broncos to the sword. But mind-boggling errors, compounded by the on-fire Ken Maumalo’s exit with a head injury, saw the home side wrest control.

After coming agonisingly close to finding a match-winning try late in regulation and during golden point extra-time, both near misses coming courtesy of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s genius, the Warriors were ultimately part of the NRL’s first drawn game since Round 21, 2016 – and the club’s first shared spoils since 2009.

It was simultaneously a lost opportunity and a fortunate result for the Warriors.

Tuivasa-Sheck, Kodi Nikorima, Peta Hiku and Adam Blair – as well as the early-exiting Maumalo – were the players most responsible for the Warriors not leaving Brisbane empty-handed.

And while it was a million miles away from perfect, much like the second half in Newcastle seven days earlier, the renewed off-the-cuff style appears much more likely to trouble the opposition and produce the desired results during their tightrope walk towards September than the rigidity hampering their play for much of the season.

At the very least, it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining and inspiring to watch.

Again like last week, the Warriors started poorly. Maumalo misjudged a towering Anthony Milford kick to hand the Broncos an early chance via a line dropout.

The hosts capitalised, Payne Haas plunging over under the posts after shockingly feeble tackles attempts from Jazz Tevaga and Agnatius Paasi.

Nikorima kicked a brilliant 40/20 to give the Warriors their first shot at the Brisbane line, but Isaiah Papali’i coughed up a short pass from the five-eighth on the first play.

Nikorima was eventually responsible for putting the visitors on the scoreboard, however, skipping to the outside to create space for Blair, who scored in the corner after a dazzling 20-metre run.

The Warriors’ adlib play began to cause the Broncos all sorts of problems – particular to their right-side defence – with only a couple of loose passes preventing a second try in quick succession.

But the Warriors hit the front at the 20-minute mark as Issac Luke stormed over under the sticks. Blake Green’s slick switch of direction on the last tackle set up the try for the veteran hooker.

Dominating field position for the last 25 minutes of the first half, the Warriors continued to pepper the Broncos with their potent left-edge attack.

But they extended their lead to 10 points following some excellent play from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Gerard Beale on the right. David Fusitu’a finished off with a trademark Superman-style put-down.

Luke drilled the conversion from the touchline.

Nikorima’s kick out on the full invited the Broncos into position to land a crucial blow late in the half, but the Warriors displayed excellent goal-line resolve to see off three straight sets and head into the break with a very handy 16-6 advantage.

Nikorima’s speed cut Brisbane up yet again in the first set of the second half, sending Maumalo on long charge down the sideline. But they were unable to polish off the gilt-edged chance, which proved crucial.

Luke butchered a high-bouncing grubber in his own in-goal to gift the Broncos a much-needed try to Darius Boyd.

The Warriors survived further damage after some needlessly reckless play near their own line, but Lachlan Burr and Maumalo (who had racked up a staggering 221 metres in just over 50 minutes) both left the field within seconds – after both were roughed up by Broncos halfback Jake Turpin. Chanel Harris-Tavita had just entered the fray at five-eighth but was forced to centre almost immediately.

Despite getting a couple of cracks in Brisbane’s red zone, the Warriors appeared as if they were treading water desperately trying to hang onto their four-point lead.

David Fifita scored a stunning solo try with 15 minutes left to put the Broncos in front, though an inexcusable defensive effort from Luke practically begged the teenage hulk to break the Warriors’ line.

The Warriors were struggling to make ground (with the effect of Maumalo’s absence palpable) and create the opportunities that were so plentiful in the opening 50 minutes  – but they hung in the contest admirably.

A match-winning try to Peta Hiku – after sizzling last-tackle play from Tuivasa-Sheck – was pulled back due to a feather touch from Papali’i. But a stripping penalty allowed Luke to boot the match into extra-time.

Nikorima hooked two field goal shots in the first half of extra-time. James Segeyaro and Milford sprayed their attempts for Brisbane.

RTS almost conjured one of the great golden point tries after the break, carving the Broncos’ defence and finding Harris-Tavita backing up on the inside. But Payne Haas produced an incredible try-saver on the rookie playmaker just inches from the Broncos’ try-line.

Another Nikorima shy at the posts drifted agonisingly just to the left with a minute to go.

In some ways it was a competition point that went begging. Their lack of a genuinely clutch match-winner was exposed again. But after relinquishing the lead and enduring some injury adversity, the Warriors showed some character to stay in it and walk away with something.

The point they did receive could prove a vital one – but wins from their next two against the similarly inconsistent Sharks and Eels are essential.

For now, though, fans can take some heart from a spirited, adventurous Warriors showing at Suncorp contained promising signs they can salvage something from 2019.

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