TWL RD 1 WRAP: F*** IT…IT’S OUR YEAR!

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Fortify the bandwagon, because the jumpers will be lining up around the block after the Nathan Brown era at the Warriors got underway in spectacular fashion.

The Warriors made arguably the most authoritative start to any campaign in their 27-season history, disposing of the ultra-hyped Gold Coast Titans 19-6 in sweltering Gosford conditions.

The key feature of the victory was their defensive grit – they did not concede a point until six and a half minutes from fulltime – and composure, as well as capitalising on rare attacking opportunities to gradually build a match-winning lead.

The display was short on offensive brilliance, but that would have left the healthy ‘home’ crowd unfazed at Central Coast Stadium after a menacing all-round effort that reeked of top-four contender. The Warriors grinded their way to a 12-0 lead after 53 minutes, before the only passage that resembled a highlight-reel moment sealed the deal 12 minutes from fulltime.

For their part, the Titans – every pundit’s sexy pick as the most likely team to make the Top 8 leap in 2021 – were error-prone and disorganised. But they were also repeatedly frustrated by the Warriors’ defensive desperation and clean-up work. Meanwhile, the Warriors’ clutch of recruits overwhelming outpointed the Titans’ highly-touted batch of buys. It was hard to pick a man-of-the-match – as is often the case in such a hard-nosed team performance – but arguably the most memorable individual aspect was Peta Hiku’s gutsy and game-changing tackling on superstar Gold Coast forward giants David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.

But the new boys stood out. Addin Fonua-Blake topped 200 running metres, Bayley Sironen powered over for the first try of the match and Euan Aitken complemented 132 metres with 16 tackles.

It was a scoreless – yet absorbing – opening 25 minutes, with both teams fighting against the Central Coast heat. David Fusitu’a was unable to grasp a trademark crossfield bomb opportunity in the Titans’ in-goal, while Ashley Taylor was valiantly held up over the Warriors’ line when he seemed certain to score.

The impasse was broken by impressive recruit Bayley Sironen, who hit a short ball and muscled his way over from close range to justify his starting second-row gig.

The Warriors took their 6-0 lead into halftime only after producing an outstanding defensive stand on their own line,  withstanding the Titans’ probing for three sets plus a set restart.

The exhaustion of both sides was palpable in the dying stages of the opening 40, though Gold Coast put a scare into the Warriors with a helter-skelter attack from their own half in the last seconds that was belatedly snuffed out.

The Warriors withstood another Titans barrage early in the second stanza, before landing a massive blow in their first visit to their opponents’ 20-metre zone.

Leeson Ah Mau proved too hard to stop close to the line, barging over for his first try for the club in his 29th appearance.

Their subsequent composure without the ball was superb, while a couple of fortunate knock-on incidents fell their way. The Warriors iced the result after the latter, Chanel Harris-Tavitva’s short ball putting Bunty Afoa’s nose through before Kodi Nikorima backed up to score for 18-0.

The Titans finally got off the mark for 2021 in the 74th minute through Corey Thompson, who crossed after a simple right-side sweep.

But fittingly the Warriors had the final say, Chanel Harris-Tavita slotted the maiden field goal of his NRL career.

It was a statement win without a doubt – the perfect platform for a new-look whose biggest hurdle heading into the season shaped as the identity of their well-travelled coach. Brown can’t be judged after one instalment of 80 minutes, of course, but on the evidence so far he has crafted this line-up into a formidable unit more than capable of rattling a few cages in 2021.

 

 

 

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