TWL RD 12: RESURGENT WARRIORS STUN TIGERS

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Todd Payten called for his side’s performance in last week’s gallant loss to Sydney Roosters to be their base level effort moving forward. The Warriors heeded their interim coach’s plea – and gave his chances of securing the gig fulltime a significant boost – with a gutsy 26-20 upset of Wests Tigers at the SCG just six days later.

Recovering from a diabolical start that saw them concede two tries in the first 12 minutes, the Warriors rallied in a fashion seldom seen from the embattled club in 2020. They scored the first three tries of the second half – including a superb quick-fire double from Peta Hiku – to build a match-winning lead over the finals hopefuls and held on amid a late scare.

The industrious efforts of usual suspects Tohu Harris and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck underpinned the victory and the collective forward-pack display was the best of the season to date. But the most eye-catching individual aspect was a hyper-involved, super-classy showing from Kodi Nikorima.

Criticised for drifting in and out of matches, the classy five-eighth was rarely out of the action, producing big plays with the hand and the boot, as well as crucially kicking five goals from as many attempts.

Nikorima contributed heavily to the Warriors’ lift in attacking inventiveness, which was also helped along by the second-phase play of Jazz Tevaga, Eli Katoa and Lachlan Burr, who had 12 offloads between them.

An uncharacteristic play-the-ball error from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck allowed the Tigers to get off to a flyer.

Luciano Leilua poked through the Warriors’ goal-line defence and popped a brilliant ball for Moses Mbye to score the sixth-minute opener.

The speed of the Tigers’ attack – with Benji Marshall directing traffic expertly – had the Warriors pinned on the back foot. A long ball from fullback Adam Doueihi caught loan winger George Jennings way in-field, with opposite David Nofoaluma showing excellent composure to reel in a high catch and tiptoe in for his 11th try of 2020.

But a penalty and subsequent set restart provided the Warriors with their first decent crack at the Tigers’ line in the 18th minute. Karl Lawton’s sharp dummy-half dart garnered a try, pushing his case to cement the No.9 jumper. Kodi Nikorima converted for a somewhat flattering 8-6 scoreline.

The momentum swung heavily the Warriors’ way. An equalising penalty goal followed soon after the try courtesy of an illegal strip.

Jack Hetherington made a searing bust during their next set but the stretched Tigers managed to hold on.

A string of penalties and set restarts against the Warriors saw the hosts land a vital blow a couple of minutes before halftime, eventually crossing via a simple dummy from 19-year-old second-rower Sam McIntyre.

The Warriors drew first blood in the second stanza after Nikorima took control.

The five-eighth’s clever kick-and-chase forced a repeat set, before he turned Peta Hiku inside into space a couple of minutes later and the centre muscled his way over the try-line.

Nikorima’s conversion squared up the scoreboard at 14-all with 33 minutes to play.

The visitors stayed patient and mounted pressure, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck forcing back-to-back line dropout with deft kicks.

But it was a rare Warriors mid-range try that gave them the lead for the first ime in the 58th minute. Again it was Nikorima sparking the attack and creating space for Eliesa Katoa, who offloaded for Hiku to deceive Tommy Talau and brilliantly beat Doueihi to the corner for his second.

The on-fire Nikorima’s sideline conversion made it 20-14.

Two sets later the Warriors were over again, with Talau dropping a bomb and Adam Pompey collecting the scraps to send Tohu Harris in for his first try since April last year.

After pretty much half an hour of unfettered ascendancy, the Warriors took their foot off the gas and Talau dotted down off a beautiful Marshall long ball with seven minutes to go. Mbye’s booming conversion from touch set up a grandstand finish at 26-20.

But the Warriors calmly negotiated the dying minutes with stout defence in the middle of the park and great scrambling.

It’s a win that lifts the club out of the wooden spoon conversation. And while it’s far too early to say they’re still in the finals mix, just two wins separate them from the eighth-placed South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Despite myriad, seemingly continuous setbacks and hurdles, the Warriors’ resolve and enthusiasm seems to have received a massive jolt of energy in the past fortnight. Wherever it ends up, these remaining eight rounds are suddenly something for the fans to look forward to.

 

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