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A magnificent team effort in Townsville, but a clutch of clear individual standouts from the Warriors’ wonderful 26-12 upset of the Cowboys.

1 TAINE TUAUPIKI: All class on debut when he could have taken a confidence knock from the Cowboys’ two early fortunate tries from kicks. Great under the high ball, excellent kick-returns and had 143 metres on 16 carries, plus seven tackle breaks and some important tackles. Didn’t overplay his hand but certainly wasn’t shy to get involved – a very handy back-up option to have, if not a contender for the No.1 jersey fulltime if a backline reshuffle happens to eventuate. 7

2 ED KOSI: Quiet first half with a couple of defensive misreads, but a very well-taken try early in the second half and belatedly upped his work-rate to finish with 12 runs for 107 metres. Probably his least impressive of 2023 so far, but still competent. 6

3 ADAM POMPEY: Still the most inscrutable player on the roster. One of the more memorable try-assists – steamrolling Valentine Holmes and slipping a miraculous offload – and chewed off 129 metres on 13 runs despite rarely looking like he was out of second gear, while he came up with some superb desperation stops among 21 tackles. Then there’s the cold drop on the first tackle from a scrum win near the Cowboys’ line with 12 minutes left and a brain-explosion flick offload straight to an opponent near his own 20 four minutes from fulltime when we were clearly in up-the-jersey mode. Nevertheless, played an important part in a great win. 6.5

18 VILIAMI VAILEA: Called up late and impressed with his willingness to take some tough carries, finishing with 144 metres on 15 runs. The ball predominantly eluded him in attacking territory, while he had a couple of nervy moments in defence (and the odd good one) and came up with an untimely drop deep in Warriors territory when they were trying to protect a lead. Decent, but probably not enough to keep the spot if Wiliame is fit next week. 6

5 MARCELO MONTOYA: Another big performance from Captain Energy. Two fine tries, a game-high (by a big margin) 229 metres from a studly 23 carries, five tackle-breaks and some great jams on defence. Not perfect – dropped a couple of bombs among three errors and threw a couple of dusty passes – but essential to this team and the only player in jerseys 2 through 5 guaranteed a spot right now. 7.5

6 TE MAIRE MARTIN: Really settled into his five-eighth role against one of his former teams. Great vision to send Montoya over for both of his tries among three line-break-assists, made a line-break down the wing in the first half and further enhanced his Toovey-ish little man defensive reputation with some outstanding stops among 24 tackles. A cold drop at first receiver on the last in attacking territory and a penalty conceded were the only blips. 7.5

7 SHAUN JOHNSON: Surely winning some of the naysayers over. Probed and took the line on in first half well, engaged the line to create space on attack expertly – most noticeably to help set up Tevaga’s and Kosi’s tries – and produced another outstanding defensive display, including a key ball-and-all tackle on lanky Cowboy Heilum Luki near the try-line in the second half. The somewhat conservative kicking game that has frustrated a portion of the fanbase so far in 2023 was a key contributor to keeping the Cowboys hemmed in and there was a bit more variety thrown in. Ironically, he’s probably not doing too much differently to last year – but being the linchpin in a good team is a hell of a lot easier than being the No.7 fall guy in a shithouse team. 8

8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE: Oh yeah. Perhaps our suggestions he’s been playing within himself so far were harsh, but AFB was authoritative and dynamic up against his Tongan teammate Taumalolo and two Australian Test props today. Made 144 metres (48 post-contact) on 12 carries, ran a great line and popped an equally good offload to set up the initial Egan try, made some excellent defensive plays and generally looked more lively. 8

9 WAYDE EGAN: Confidence levels remain at an all-time high for our No.9 lever, backing up to score his third try of the season, unpicking the Cowboys through the middle with his dummy-half vision and reeling off a team-high 42 tackles before a jarring KO ended his match 11 minutes early. 8

10 BUNTY AFOA: Named to started in the front-row for just the 15th time in his 112-game career, Bunty made three hit-ups and 12 tackles in the opening 17 minutes before being subbed. He didn’t return. Not sure what the go is there. 5

11 MITCH BARNETT: Shifted to the edge to start after two games at prop, but was just as wholehearted and energy- and effort-leading in 55 minutes on the park before a worrying neck injury curtailed his afternoon. Chewed off 135 metres from 14 determined runs and produced a rad line-break-assist for Martin with footwork and a deft pass out wide. 7.5

12 MARATA NIUKORE: Looked to be in trouble after an awkward fall while putting in a kick that went dead, but recovered to put in a 66-minute shift, garnering 10 runs for 89 metres and 26 tackles. More in line with his grafting display against the Knights than his game-breaking showing against the Roosters, but handy nonetheless. 6.5

13 TOHU HARRIS: Tremendous milestone effort, even if he didn’t quite stand out as much as in the first two rounds. Twelve runs for 124 metres, 41 tackles, 12 passes including a key try involvement – and a Warrior in every sense in playing out the 80 minutes for the third time this season. 8


14 DYLAN WALKER: Far more valuable than your average No.14 utility/impact player. Walker’s form is nudging elite middle forward territory and his stellar 58-minute contribution against the Cowboys including 20 runs for 157 metres, a try-assist and 27 tackles. Constantly tested the Cowboys through the middle and has already built up a nice combination with Egan and Johnson. Great purchase. 8

16 BAYLEY SIRONEN: Not a player many were expecting to feature this early in the season, but ran a few brave lines in his stint on the edge before filling the dummy-half gap left by Egan’s HIA. Solid enough, good squad member to have up your sleeve…probably a few cabs off the rank from being in a full-strength 17. 5.5

17 TOM ALE: Felt like he was on the park for more than 22 minutes – and stats of nine runs for 98 metres definitely suggest he was. Staked a big claim to be retained when everyone’s willing and able for selection, with a grab of a bomb near his own line at a crucial stage another feather in his cap. 6.5

22 JAZZ TEVAGA: Surplus to full-strength requirements according to quite a few, Jazzy absolutely demanded ongoing selection with a vintage performance. Huge work-rate in 44 minutes with 13 runs for 140 metres and 32 tackles, but the quality and impact of those numbers was even more striking. Steamed over for a try for good measure. So good to see – and the retention of the headband with bald head reminded everyone who the Warriors’ premier cult hero is (sorry Anton Posa). 8

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