Never underestimate the Warriors. Just when you think all hope is lost, when you think you have seen it all, they will find a way to rewrite the script.
Just one week after being trounced 42-16 by Canberra, Stephen Kearney’s men delivered a startling riposte against Manly with a 24-16 victory.
- 10 – This was the Warriors 10th victory over the Sea Eagles in the 34 games played in this fixture.
- 4 – This was only the fourth time that the Warriors have beaten Manly at Mt Smart, and the first time there since 2013.
Who were these men in black? And what had they done with the Warriors of the previous week?
After resisting wholesale changes bar a few injury-enforced tweaks, the Warriors had been all but written off in most quarters. And statistically speaking this looked like an incredible uphill battle.
- 6 – The Warriors had lost their last six games in a row at Mt Smart Stadium, and were staring down the barrel of a club record seventh.
With the weight off their shoulders they looked the fresher and more energetic side in the opening stanza. In just the sixth minute Ken Maumalo timed his run to perfection to pick up and equally perfect pinpoint kick from Chanel Harris-Tavita to score in the corner.
- 15 – Maumalo scored his 15th try of the season to move back level with Maika Sivo of the Parramatta Eels in their battle to be the NRL’s leading try-scorer.
- 10 – In the history of this fixture, the first try has been scored inside the first 10 minutes in 10 of the last 11 games.
The early Warriors defence was in complete contrast to the previous week with every player putting their body on the line in both general play and scrambling goal-line tackles. They looked a real team again as Manly battered them with a lion’s share of possession.
With 22 minutes gone an innocuous kick ahead from Blake Green was eagerly contested by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who briliiantly flicked the ball back between his legs for a juggling Ligi Sao to score with his first touch after coming off the bench.
- 1 – Ligi Sao scored his first try for the Warriors and his first try in 32 NRL games. He last scored in Round 15, 2015 when he was playing for Manly.
- 8 – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck notched his eighth try-assist of the season – equal-second behind Peta Hiku (10) for the Warriors, and third among the NRL’s fullbacks behind James Tedesco (11) and Clint Gutherson (9).
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) August 11, 2019
It was that man Maumalo over in the corner again just three minutes later thanks to some quick passing from Green, Adam Blair and Harris-Tavita, sending the Warriors out to a scarcely-believable 16-0 lead after just 25 minutes.
- 16 – In picking up his 16th try of the season Maumalo regained the outright lead for the most tries scored in 2019 (Sivo would scored again for Parramatta a day later to create a two-way tie at the top of the NRL’s tryscoring charts).
- 5 – Maumalo also scored his fifth try double of the season – after failing to dot down twice in a match prior to 2019.
It was near on the perfect half from the Warriors, and they looked like a real football side again. A team full of confidence and players backing each other up in both attack and defence.
- 18 – The Warriors led 18-0 at halftime. This is the most points they have scored in a first half against Manly since 2012.
- 0 – And by holding their opponents to nil at halftime, they achieved a feat they had not done since 2010 against the Sea Eagles.
Manly enjoyed another glut of possession throughout second half, but the resolute Warriors defence was proving impenetrable. In fact, it took a contentious sin-binning call against Adam Blair before Manly could get themselves back into the game. Second-rower Joel Thompson steamed onto a short ball out of dummy half to crash over in the 67th minute.
- 3 – Thompson picked up his third try in his last four games against the Warriors.
Boys were on 🔥🔥🤘🏾 @NZWarriors a shout-out to our staunch members and fans that turned up and got the boys through the game. We appreciate each and everyone of youse. Thank all y’all 😘
— issac luke (@issacluke_14) August 9, 2019
Having the extra man on the field was beginning to pay dividends as just five minutes later Manly were over again through boom winger Reuben Garrick. A simple through-the-hands play left the rookie with the overlap to score in the corner.
- 14 – Garrick picked up the 14th try in his first season in the NRL.
An all-too-familiar scene was beginning to play out right before Warriors fans’ eyes as Manly went over yet again – yet again whilst the Warriors were still a man down. You’d be forgiven for thinking you had seen this exact scenario play out on more than one occasion this season.
Another rollercoaster finish became a harrowing reality as Tom Trbojevic ran it on the last to create yet another overlap for Garrick, who steamed onto a ball from Moses Suli to score in the right-hand corner again and bring Manly within two points of an unlikely victory.
- 15 – Garrick moved equal-second on the NRL tryscoring charts as he picked up his 15th of the year.
- 3 – Garrick has scored three doubles (or more) in his past four NRL games.
Game on, and with the nails having still not grown back yet from previous week’s cliffhangers yet it was going to be a tense final few minutes. Mathematically, and literally, the season was hanging by a thread.
They say fortune favours the brave and to their credit the Warriors refused to give up despite what was thrown at them. In fact, the Canberra game aside you have to give them credit for the way they have battled on despite the adversity they have faced.
It is an often overlooked point that if a couple of contentious decisions had have gone their way in recent weeks they could be sitting well inside the Top 8. And in a curious twist the man the club are rumoured to be chasing for next season, Api Koroisau, was the player who made the crucial mistake to give the Warriors a chance to clinch the result with a forward pass.
Fittingly it was Jazz Tevaga who muscled his way over from dummy half to seal the result for the Warriors with only a few minutes left on the clock. Perhaps not given enough credit for his defensive efforts of late, it was a deserved reward for the tireless Tevaga.
- 2 – Tevaga picked up his second try for 2019, the first time he has scored more than one try in a season in his four years with the Warriors.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) August 12, 2019
Credit where it is due, the Warriors thoroughly deserved this victory. From the outset they were the better side and completely outplayed their fifth-placed opponents. Nobody was willing to give them a chance but they somehow turned around a disastrous performance a week earlier to produce arguably their best game of 2019.
- 2,252 – The Warriors beat Manly for the first time in 2,252 days – June 9, 2013.
- 5 – This was also the Warriors fifth victory from six games on Friday nights in 2019.
The statistical absurdity of Maumalo and Tuivasa-Sheck continues to carry this side each week, but positively there were more guys stepping up with the goods in this game.
Harris-Tavita is already showing maturity beyond his years. He has time on the ball, a classic trait of a quality playmaker. He is fearless in defence; even if he misses one he is quick to get back to make amends.
- 2 – Harris-Tavita’s two try-assists were a season high for him.
- 7 – Although he missed seven of his 26 attempted tackles, it didn’t stunt his confidence – most notably pulling off a huge hit on Tom Trbojevic.
- 200 – Maumalo yet again topped the 200-metre mark, running for a game-high 240 metres. Tuivasa-Sheck finished one metre shy of the 200-metre mark to stay on top of the NRL’s run-metre charts, with Big Ken in second.
- 40+ – Lachlan Burr topped the Warriors’ tackle count with 48, while Isaiah Papali’i (46) and Jazz Tevaga (41) were also tireless without the ball. Tevaga (38.2) is 13th and Papali’i (38.1) 14th for most tackles per game in the NRL this season.
- 22 – Adam Blair conceded two penalties to join James Maloney as the most penalised player in the NRL this season with 22.
There is a very real chance a victory could put the Warriors back into the Top Eight this week with the other teams around them on the ladder not exactly setting the world on fire. It will be tough against perennial high flyers, the Roosters.
But stranger things have happened, watch a replay of this game and you’ll see.