TWL RD 11: GALLANT WARRIORS WORN DOWN BY ROOSTERS

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The Warriors’ fanbase aren’t expecting any miracles given the myriad unique challenges our team are grappling with – we just want to see some heart, character and desperation on the paddock.

They delivered all three traits in spades in an 18-10 loss to Sydney Roosters that deserves to rate as their best performance of 2020 so far. The two-time defending champs did not lead until the 52nd minute, took until the 69th to score a try that wasn’t from a deflected kick, and will leave Gosford knowing they have just been in a hell of a contest – and got the rub of the green in getting away with the two points.

The Warriors led 10-6 at halftime on the back of some magnificent defence, which they carried through until the final whistle. They lacked polish and offensive firepower, while some ill-time errors stymied their bid to put more points on the board, but it was a collective effort to be immensely proud of.

Despite having just 44 percent possession, the Warriors finished ahead of the Roosters in terms of line-breaks (2-1), offloads (10-2) and effective tackle percentage (92.3-88.5). Engine-room quartet Tohu Harris, Eliesa Katoa, Jack Hetherington and Jazz Tevaga had enormous games, while Karl Lawton was a terrier at hooker and Blake Green was a valiant performer in the No.7 hot-seat.

While the Warriors made a quantum leap forward reslience-wise from last Sunday’s meek 36-point loss to Cronulla, it was never more apparent that we don’t have a Luke Keary type in our ranks.

The Warriors enjoyed the early running and took a shock 6-0 lead in the fourth minute. Eliesa Katoa cleverly batted batted back Blake Green’s bomb, before quick hands from Kodi Nikorima and Peta Hiku allowed the Auckland-bound Ken Maumalo to stroll in.

The Roosters practically dared the Warriors to double their lead by giving away penalties and set restarts, but the opportunities went to waste via cold drops from Nikorima and Jazz Tevaga inside the 20.

The premiers then wrested the possession and field position advantage with the Warriors’ discipline and ball-control falling away, but the hosts’ gutsy defence kept the Roosters at bay – highlighted by a sensational try-saver on Sitili Tupouniua by Tohu Harris.

The Roosters finally squared up the scoreboard in the 22nd minute after David Fusitu’a spilled a bomb, with Tupouniua nimbly picking up the scraps to dot down.

The Warriors repelled several subsequent Rooster raids, however, displaying the type of persistent defensive resolve rarely seen in 2020 and forcing their heavyweight opponents into uncharacteristic errors.

The Warriors landed a huge blow just before the break after some Katoa and Maumalo magic forced a line dropout. The potent Nikorima-Katoa combination delivered yet another try as the outstanding rookie steamed onto a short ball from his five-eighth and dragged three Chooks over the line for a 10-6 halftime lead.

Looking increasingly like laying the foundations of a boilover, the Warriors had by far the better of the first 10 minutes of the second half, putting the Roosters under pressure with their strong go-forward, willing kick-chase and swarming defence.

But a disgraceful Bunker call allowed the visitors to hit the front for the first time. Peta Hiku helped a ball free when Brett Morris was clearly trying to offload it on the last near the Warriors’ line, but Jared Maxwell ruled a strip and rejected the Warriors’ Captain’s Challenge.

Luke Keary capitalised on a fortuitous deflection to score a solo kick-and-chase try and the end of the resultant, undeserved set.

Rather than drop their bundle, the Warriors went set for set with a Roosters side that had their tails up. But the relentless pressure finally broke the underdogs’ backs.

After a couple of fiery collisions between Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and new Warriors cult hero Jack Hetherington – with our man coming out on top – Joey Manu stood up some tired goal-line defence to struggle over with 11 minutes to go.

The Warriors’ creative attempts to come up with late points came up empty but they again showed real grit to stop the Roosters from blowing the scoreline out.

In an amusing post-script to a tense encounter, JWH refused to shake Hetherington’s hand and repeatedly walked away from the Penrith firebrand, who was trying to make nice with the petulant veteran.

If that’s the base level performance from here on out, Warriors fans will be ecstatic. It will get them a few wins over lesser teams, too.

A new challenge looms with Fusitu’a, Maumalo and Agnatius Paasi about to jet home to loved ones, but pre-match news that Parramatta duo George Jennings and Daniel Alvaro are about to arrive could add some new impetus to a trying campaign – and potentially keep Todd Payten in the 2021 head coach frame.

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