The Warriors’ season is delicately poised at 3-3 at the end of Round 6, but a courageous 20-14 defeat of the in-form Dragons has lifted fans’ flagging spirits ahead of a huge ANZAC Day clash with the Storm.
Aside from a first-half goal-line aberration in the comeback win over the Raiders in Round 3 and a poor performance against the Roosters a fortnight later, the Warriors have generally been strong defensively. The Warriors’ 2021 fortunes have seemingly hinged on intermittently getting their attack firing.
Stats Insider’s numbers outlining where on the field the Warriors have scored their tries make for fascinating reading.
Last year, their 61 tries were spread out evenly between the left and right: the Warriors scored 25 on each side of the paddock (41 percent), with just 11 scored in the middle (18 percent). Only four teams scored a lower proportion of their tries centre-field.
But with the team playing a conservative style lacking width under new coach Nathan Brown, their tryscoring stats have changed markedly across the first quarter of the 2021 campaign.
Nine of the Warriors’ 19 tries so far have been scored through the middle channel – comfortably the highest proportion of four-pointers scored in the middle by any team (47 percent) and behind only the heavyweight Storm for most tries scored in the middle (10 tries). Only the Broncos’ right side (64 percent), Roosters’ right side (61 percent) and the Sharks’ left edge (48 percent) account for a bigger percentage of their team’s tries.
Warriors forwards have scored eight tries combined across the opening six rounds, with Bayley Sironen, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Tohu Harris each bagging two.
— NRL (@NRL) March 27, 2021
The Warriors have crossed for seven tries on the left side of the park, but the most alarming statistic is their lack of potency on the right, where Kodi Nikorima, Eliesa Katoa and Peta Hiku were expected to replicate their 2020 form (with a bit of help from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck chiming in from fullback) and provide a banquet of meat pies for winger David Fusitu’a.
Just three of the Warriors’ 19 tries so far in 2021 have come down their right-side attack. It’s the third-lowest scoring area in the NRL as a percentage of a team’s tries, after only the Titans’ right side and the Broncos’ middle. The Bulldogs’ right (two of nine tries) and Broncos’ middle (two of 14) are the only attacking channel to produce less tries in the NRL.
The Warriors’ only try down the right during the opening five rounds was a controversial one: Nikorima broke the line before sending Murdoch-Masila over with a blatantly forward pass in Canberra. But after an abysmal offensive showing in the Round 5 loss to the Sea Eagles – particularly from Nikorima – there were seriously encouraging signs of improvement against the Saints.
Nikorima was superb at Jubilee Oval, probing and creating space on the right edge, poking the grubber through for Paul Turner’s first-half try and firing the last pass for Tuivasa-Sheck’s sizzling match-winner. Marcelo Montoya also saw plenty of ball on the right wing inside Dragons territory, particularly during an enterprising second half.
— NRL (@NRL) April 18, 2021
Fusitu’a – who played the first five rounds before sitting out last week’s win with a hamstring complaint, but is set to return for Sunday’s showdown with the Storm – has barely seen the ball in the opposition half. The formerly potent flyer has managed just six tries in 28 games since his club-record-equalling, NRL-leading 23-try season in 2018.
Fusitu’a’s current nine-match tryscoring drought is the equal-longest of his career. With Montoya – who has jut one try-assist in his 57-game NRL career – likely to be inside him at centre, the portents of Fusitu’a getting over the stripe on Sunday aren’t great…but the form of Nikorima and RTS could provide an opportunity for punters to cash in on the out-of-sorts ‘Fus’ as a $2.88 Anytime Tryscorer option.
Round 6 of the #NRL threw plenty of surprises our way. I've had a look over this weekend's matches and am predicting normality to resume.
— The Shark (@TABShark) April 21, 2021
Left winger Ken Maumalo, who has two tries to his name this season and 24 in 37 games since the start of 2018, is the underdog Warriors’ shortest-priced Round 6 Anytime Tryscorer hope at $2.50. Tuivasa-Sheck ($3.50) and Montoya ($4.00) may also provide some value – though the Storm’s left-side defence has leaked only four tries so far.
The likes of Harris ($14), Leeson Ah Mau ($14), Jazz Tevaga ($14), Bunty Afoa ($8) and Josh Curran ($7) will come into the frame if the Warriors continue to pry for opportunities closer to the ruck.
Meanwhile, the Storm have split their 27 tries very evenly this season: 10 in the middle, nine on the right and eight on the left. But given a couple of Maumalo’s glaring one-on-one defensive efforts out wide against the Roosters’ Brett Morris and the Dragons’ Mikaele Ravalawa recently, Storm right winger (and former Warriors loan player) George Jennings ($1.62) may be the most astute Anytime Tryscorer option available at AAMI Park.
— NRL (@NRL) April 18, 2021