What a difference a month makes. Last time out against the Sharks it came down to a 75th minute field goal to seal a one-point victory for the Warriors, their finals hopes well and truly alive.
Fast forward to Saturday afternoon in Sydney and with the slimmest of finals hopes now almost improbable you still had to believe that if anyone could pull one out of the hat it would be the Warriors.
- 3 – Going into this game the Warriors needed to win all three of their remaining games to have any chance of qualifying for the finals.
So evenly matched going into this game, with both sides so patchy in recent weeks yet more than capable of turning on the fireworks if it was “their day”. The hardest thing to work out is when that day will be.
- 40 – This was the 40th fixture between these two side, with the Sharks leading with 22 wins going into the game, to the Warriors 17 victories.
But it took just two minutes to look as though the day was perhaps going to be the Sharks’ as rookie centre Bronson Xerri beat a number of defenders to scor following a Paul Gallen break.
- 5 – Xerri has scored five tries in his last five NRL games.
- 24 – The man who initiated the break, Gallen has yet to score against the Warriors in 24 games. The only current NRL side he has failed to score against.
Warriors centre Patrick Herbert, returning from an injury lay off muscled his way over seven minutes later following some good lead up work from the forwards, and a David Fusitu’a lay up to offer some promise of another close encounter in this fixture.
- 4 – SIx of the last seven games in this fixture have been decided by no more than four points.
- 3 – Herbert scored the third try of his NRL career in his debut season.
- 20 – All three tries have come within the opening 20 minutes of a game.
But back-to-back tries to the Josh’s – Morris and Dugan confirmed that yes, it was more than likely going to be the Sharks day with two “something out of nothing” tries. Even more concerning for Warriors fans was seeing former star playmaker Shaun Johnson having a hand in nearly everything as we were going at a point a minute, 18-4 Sharks.
- 12 – Switching to the Sharks has given Morris a new lease of life, scoring wise. In picking up his 12th try of the season he is currently enjoying his most prolific year since 2012 when he scored 17 for the Bulldogs.
- 11 – Similarly Dugan, whose 11th try for the season gives him his most prolific season since he scored 13 for the Raiders in 2010.
Isaiah Papali’i making up for an earlier error picked up a loose ball to pick up another four pointer for the visitors, and despite the flow of possession and territory going the Sharks way the Warriors were somehow still in the game.
- 6 – Papali’I scored his sixth career try for the Warriors and second of the season.
Then came the proverbial coach killer just before halftime after some great metres were made by Andrew Fifita, as boom Kiwi second rower Briton Nikora strolled over just as he did in Auckland a month ago.
- 2 – Nikora has scored on both occasions he has played against the Warriors, helping to six tries in total in his debut season in the NRL.
Half-time Sharks, 24-10.
- 24 – This is the second equal highest score the Warriors have conceded in the first half in 2019.
- 30 – Second only to the 30 conceded against the Raiders three weeks ago.
- 1,001 – With his fourth conversion of the day, former Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson moved to 1,001 career points in the NRL. A club record 917 for the Warriors, and 84 for the Sharks.
The ascendency was with Warriors straight after the break as they had three consecutive sets at the Sharks line, but to no avail as the defence held strong.
Before defence turned to counter attack as Fifita and Jayden Brailey turned the Warriors onto the back foot, allowing former Warriors half back Chad Townsend to send Auckland born prop Braden Hamlin-Uele steaming into a gap to score.
- 4 – After playing only 2 NRL games in his first two seasons, Hamlin-Uele is enjoying a break out season, picking up his fourth try.
Seven minutes later it was a hat trick of Kiwis to score, as 19-year-old winger Ronaldo Mulitalo was the quickest to a Xerri cross field grubber that went straight through the grasping hands of Ken Maumalo. 36-10 Sharks.
- 3 – Another young Shark in his debut season, Aucklander Mulitalo picked up his third try for 2019.
The Warriors had welcomed David Fusitu’a back from injury for this game; and last seasons top tryscorer is still a long way off those numbers. But try as he may, a typical acrobatic try in the corner still left the visitors well behind with 18 minutes to go.
- 5 – Fusitu’a scored his fifth try of the season, which moved him to 60 NRL tries for the Warriors. He is now in equal fifth with Francis Meli for the most tries scored by a Warriors player.
But just to reinforce that it was the Sharks day, Morris latched onto a loose ball and scorched away to consign the Warriors to their 13th defeat of the season.
- 22 – Morris picked up his fourth double of the season, and 22nd of his NRL career.
- 42 – This was the second highest score that the Warriors have conceded against the Sharks in the history of this fixture. Second only to the 45 the Sharks scored in 2012.
Statistically speaking, August has been a tough month for the Warriors.
- 26 – Tries conceded, 30% of the season.
- 146 – Points conceded, 27% of the season.
- 3 – Conceded seven tries or more in three of the last four games.
- 523 – Points conceded in 2019, second only to the Titans.
- 40 – Conceded 40 points in back to back games in Australia for the first time in their history.
Given the circumstances and the amount of last chances to make the finals the Warriors have had over the past few weeks it is hard to fathom how they can’t get motivated for these games. Missed opportunities, poor decisions. The story of the season really, and a sad endictment of a club that is universally recognised as contenders at the start of every season. Such is the natural talent they have in their roster.
- 40 – Stephen Kearney now has the second most losses as a Warriors coach. He has lost 40 of his 71 games in charge (the third most games in charge).
- 6 – Of the 11 coaches in Warriors history, he currently sits sixth in terms of winning percentage.
So where to now for Stephen Kearney and the Warriors ? With two games to go against a resurgent Rabbitohs and a tough as nails Raiders, will it be to their detriment to start blooding new talent ? With no new signings on the horizon it might be a necessity.
- 3 – Just three of the Warriors forwards ran for over 100 metres, compared with seven of the Sharks forwards. Adam Blair running for only 44 metres from his four hit ups.
- 200 – Captain fantastic Roger Tuivasa-Sheck again tried in vein with another 200+ metre effort (including 23 hit ups and 11 tackles breaks). Ken Maumalo was the only other back to get over the 100 metre mark with 105, low for his standards.
- 51 – The Warriors missed 51 tackles, with Hiku, Herbert, Green, Burr, Papali’I and Tevaga all missing five (or more in some cases).