TWL RD 5: KODI AND THE PACK STEER WARRIORS TO HIGH-SCORING WIN

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Well, we were screaming out for some points – and the Warriors delivered in spades to outlast North Queensland Cowboys 37-26 in a scrappy, see-sawing encounter in Gosford.

A three-try burst in the space of 15 minutes – all from kicks – turned a one-point deficit into a match-winning lead with 10 minutes remaining for the surrogate hosts as Peta Hiku negated a disastrous start with his first hat-trick for the club.

The Warriors emerged relatively convincing winners are five lead changes inside the first 50 minutes.

But the star of the show was five-eighth Kodi Nikorima, whose every involvement bore fruit for the Warriors. The enigmatic playmaker produced a pair of try-assists either side of a superb field goal on the stroke of halftime, troubled the Cowboys with his running game all night and forced multiple line dropouts with deft kicks.

After a Round 4 shocker against Penrith, Blake Green also had a far more enjoyable night out with three of his kicks leading to tries and showing far greater all-round control and execution with the boot.

And the key to the halves’ resurgence was a powerful forward-pack performance, with a host of Warriors tyros and stalwarts upstaging Kangaroos middles Jordan McLean and Josh McGuire, and late inclusion Jason Taumalolo.

Roosters loan Poasa Faamausili was immense off the bench – the Warriors need to pull out all the stops to keep him on their books for the rest of 2020 – and rookies Jamayne Taunoa-Brown and Eliesa Katoa had massive games, and Adam Blair continued his outstanding post-restart form with a mighty performance.

Elite duo Tohu Harris and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were the glue and the backbone once again with their quality match only by their statlines.

Speaking of stats, here’s a couple of intriguing ones that reflect the unique nature of the victory for a Warriors side that has had to become accustomed to grinding out two competition points, rather than simply putting on too many points to be caught:

  • The 37-point effort was just the second time the Warriors have scored more than 36 points since Round 14, 2016 (their 40-6 rout of Canterbury in Round 1 last year was the only other occasion)
  • The Warriors ran in seven tries; they’ve only scored more than that once (nine tries against Newcastle in Round 14, 2016) since Round 21, 2014
  • The Cowboys’ 26 points represented the most conceded by the Warriors in a win since Round 5, 2016 – a 32-28 golden point win over the Roosters at the same ground

Incisive early play from Nikorima was swiftly followed by an inch-perfect by Green that caught 18-year-old Cowboys debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow out of position and allowed Patrick Herbert to put last week’s nightmare behind him with the opening try in the eighth minute.

Tabuai-Fidow, who moved to fullback Valentine Holmes suffered an ankle injury, atoned with a superb ball (after a bad defensive read from Gerard Beale) to put Holmes over out wide. Holmes would exit the match soon afterwards.

An in-goal brain explosion from Peta Hiku allowed Kyle Feldt to steal a try and give the visitors a 12-6 lead.

The Warriors rallied to dominate the remainder of the first half, however, with a dazzling Nikorima run setting up a try for Katoa, Hiku humiliating opposing centre Esan Marsters for a go-ahead four-pointer, and Nikorima slotting the field goal for a 17-12 halftime advantage.

An error in the first minute of the second stanza from Katoa resulted in a try to Justin O’Neill as Tabuai-Fidow’s pace again proved a problem for the Warriors. A Nikorima tip-on for Adam Pompey to score restored the five-point lead but Francis Molo caught Jack Murchie out on his try-line to crash over and put the Cowboys in front 22-21 with half an hour remaining.

The Warriors kept their cool and put the Cowboys to the sword. Wayde Egan put a grubber on a dime for Hiku’s second and the centre completed the treble after Feldt fumbled a Green cross-field kick.

Another Green high ball produced a bizarre try for Karl Lawton in the 70th minute, the Warriors going 35-22 ahead.

Feldt’s second try with eight minutes on the clock kept Warriors fans on high alert but they closed out their second win of the season comfortably.

At the rest of putting a dampener on an important result, the Warriors’ overall display would not have been enough to trouble most of their NRL rivals – the Cowboys were ordinary, yet still posted five tries. Luck favoured the Warriors somewhat with four tries coming from kicks, while their errors after points were maddening and discipline at times was poor.

Realistically, we witnessed an entertaining high-scorer between two teams highly unlikely to figure in the finals. But at the very least, for one night the Warriors shed their reputation for stale, stilted attack and gave their frustrated supporters reason to cheer.

Best-case, it was a platform to work off and reason to stay optimistic as the club gradually welcomes back a clutch of key players from the casualty ward. Clinching back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 10 last season – and consecutive high-quality performances from Nikorima and Green since roughly the same time – when the Warriors take on Souths next Friday might get a few more of us off the skeptics bench and back on the bandwagon.

 

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