TWL RD 7: WEARY WARRIORS FAIL TO WEATHER STORM

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All Warriors fans hoped – and many even half-expected – their team to turn the emotion of the past week, which has compounded the adversity of the last three months, into a stirring on-field performance. If not a boilover win, then a gallant loss.

But the result in interim coach Todd Payten’s first match in charge was a defeat heavier margin-wise than anything the Warriors suffered during the Stephen Kearney era.

Despite coming out of the blocks firing and enjoying some periods of promise, the Warriors were crushed 50-6 by a ruthless Melbourne Storm outfit. The heavyweights’ miserly defence and incredible ability to ice their attacking opportunities underpinned the blowout – though their opponents’ glaring shortcomings in both departments also ensured it was one-way traffic on the scoreboard.

If you want to share the blame around evenly between the outgoing Kearney and caretaker Payten, the 90 points the Warriors conceded against Souths and Melbourne is the fourth-most in a two-game period in the club’s history.

The Warriors made a bright start, capitalising on Melbourne infringements as wingers Ken Maumalo and Patrick Herbert both went close enough to scoring in the opening six minutes to require the Bunker’s assistance.

A 40-metre kick-return from Maumalo and Green’s grubber for a repeat set put the Warriors in striking distance again in the 11th minute, but a poor last-tackle option from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck allowed Josh Addo-Carr to race from his goal-line deep into the Warriors’ half.

Two plays later, Paul Momirovski easily found his way through a big gap in the Warriors’ scrambling defence to score.

The Warriors resumed control of possession and territory but couldn’t find a way over the line.

An error from Jack Murchie near halfway gave the Storm a rare chance and they took it with embarrassing ease, Suliasi Vunivalu outpacing Maumalo and streaking away to score with RTS misreading the cover defence scenario.

A brain-dead penalty given away by Isaiah Papali’i late in the ensuing set invited the Storm into the danger zone and Ryan Papenhuyzen exposed soft goal-line defence.

Maumalo bungled a bomb a couple of sets later and Momirovski scored immediately. After the Warriors dominated the opening 20 minutes, a Storm slaughter appeared imminent as the halftime scoreline ballooned to 22-0.

Melbourne’s ill-discipline put the Warriors on the front foot again at the start of the second half – and they finally cashed in after three straight sets, quick hands sending Patrick Herbert over out wide for his fifth NRL try.

Chanel Harris-Tavita – thrust into the unfamiliar hooker role after Karl Lawton’s early injury exit and looking sharp in his first outing in three months – nailed the sideline conversion.

But a Tohu Harris error led to the Storm’s fifth try, with Papenhuyzen scorching over for his second untouched – despite the Warriors issuing a captain’s challenge for lead runner Nelson Asofa-Solomona steam-rolling Harris-Tavita in the lead-up.

The Warriors had a couple of RTS-created opportunities but Herbert and Gerard Beale put them down. Frustratingly, the Storm iced a rare chance straight after the latter with Vunivalu finishing off a Harlem Globetrotter-esque four-pointer for 32-6 with 23 minutes left.

Vunivalu notched his hat-trick a matter of seconds later, latching onto a beautiful Jahrome Hughes kick that left Big Ken flatfooted.

Brandon Smith – every Warriors fan’s dream recruit – then made roadkill of Adam Blair to barge over next to the goalposts. Cameron Smith’s peerless vision and Josh Addo-Carr’s searing pace saw the Storm crack the half-century with five minutes to go.

Perhaps the only positive to reflect upon after a torrid week is that the 2020 NRL premiership is only 20 rounds long.

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