It’s hard to know what to make of a performance, so error-riddled and going away from a lot of what has worked over the opening six rounds – yet coming away with an oh-so-valuable 22-14 win over a desperate North Queensland Cowboys outfit on the back of a stoic defensive effort.
The Warriors enjoyed just 43 percent possession, unsurprisingly finished behind in total yardage (while winning the metres per carry and average set distance counts), made 10 errors to six and conceded five ruck infringements to none. So there was a sense of overachivement and the undercurrent of resilience that has become a 2023 trademark in coming away with the victory.
The bottom line is the Warriors are an outstanding 5-2, creating some much-needed breathing space ahead of a super-tough section of the draw. Winning ugly is a common characteristic of successful sides…and Andrew Webster’s charges certainly did that today. But it doesn’t make for a lot of high scores in the individual appraisal stakes.
1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD: Contender for best on ground in a poor spectacle. A team-high 180 metres and five tackle-breaks on 19 runs, passed 10 times in a busier playmaking performance and came up with some big clean-up plays on defence. Made two errors and gave away two penalties and a six-again, however. 7
2 ED KOSI: Retrenched to the right wing (when most thought DWZ’s return would bump him out of the side) and justified his retention. Backed up superbly to score a vital first-half try with great hands, 12 runs for 98 metres, no issues marking up on Kyle Feldt and came up with one big jam on defence among seven tackles and defused well at the back. One error, but importantly somehow held onto a shocking pass off the scrum at a crucial stage and won the Captain’s Challenge. 7
3 ADAM POMPEY: None of the searing highlights or maddening lowlights of last week. Big early intercept, had 94 metres and five tackle-breaks (albeit off an un-industrious six runs), and had some good moments on defence and no real shockers. 6.5
4 MARCELO MONTOYA: His barnstorming, double-fend charge to put Kosi away was the undisputed highlight of the match – a fair effort after getting shifted to centre for the first time this season in a late change. Still put in a customary hefty amount of work carry-wise with 136 metres from 13 runs, while he handled a tricky match-up with Peta Hiku well defensively. Only other member of the backline besides Shaun Johnson who didn’t make an error. 7
5 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: Welcome back, Dallin, but that was arguably the poorest performance by any Warriors three-quarter so far in 2023. Turned too late as Taulagi blitzed him for the Cowboys’ first try, was less culpable (but not blameless) as Taulagi came within a toenail of scoring again and came up with a play-the-ball gaffe to allow Cotter to score just before the break. An earlier in-goal blunder was lucky to not get punished. Great on the carry with 147 metres from 13 runs…but it’s a problem if by far your most experienced wing/centre is also the flightiest of a flighty bunch without being much more potent. 5
6 DYLAN WALKER: Came up trumps at a crucial stage to plunge over for the winning try – his first as a Warrior. But despite starting in the No.6, Walker seemed less confident and eager than he has in previous mid-game switches to five-eighth, or even than in his role as a middle-forward ball-player. Just five runs for 39 metres – when he has regularly been over the 100-metre mark in 2023 – kinda summed up a tentative display and he only passed 17 times. Food for thought for Webster with TMM out for eight weeks and Walker’s bench impact missed today. 6
7 SHAUN JOHNSON: Hard to shine as brightly as he has all season in a game like that (and didn’t), but was still pivotal to getting the win. Two massive try-assists in the second half, kicked well again in tough conditions – including one forced line dropout and some astute long kicking in the latter stages – and was again enormous in defence with 15 tackles and no misses. Goalkicking, while not the easiest night for it, wasn’t great but eventually finished with three-from-six. Previous incarnations of SJ may have stooped to the low, sloppy levels of this contest but he stuck to the task and ultimately got the Warriors home. 7.5
8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE: Barnstorming stint to open the game, powering over for the first try and bending the Cowboys’ defensive line back with every run. Less prominent during his second shift but led the Warriors’ forwards with 130 metres (44 post-contact) on 11 carries, plus 23 tackles. 7
9 FREDDY LUSSICK: Freddy Fill-in was just that: Competent, but a class below the No.9 he replaced. Only played 53 minutes, during which time he didn’t run the ball once and struggled a bit with his timing at dummy-half, but came up with 31 tackles with no misses. 6
16 JAZZ TEVAGA: Started at prop in a late change and provided some early punch that has been lacking all season. Eventually played 63 minutes in the middle and churned through 12 runs for 115 metres, while lapping the field in the tackle count with 47. Hearty as, though made two errors and gave away a penalty. 7
11 JACKSON FORD: Getting the negatives out of the way, two ruck infringements and a shocking first-tackle error from a penalty that derailed any momentum the Warriors might have hoped to build early in the second half. Glass half full, played the full 80, reeled off 35 tackles and chalked up seven strong runs for 72 metres. 6
15 JOSH CURRAN: Promoted to the starting pack late for the second straight game and proved he deserved it, playing every minute and churning through 38 tackles and 71 metres while avoiding the indiscretions that plagued the majority of his teammates. But the highlight was running a great line off SJ to score a very important second-half try for the second time in three games. 7
13 TOHU HARRIS: Returning from two and a half games on the sidelines, the skipper put in a typically industrious and high-quality 63-minute performance. Great numbers on both sides of the ball – 33 tackles and 16 carries for 112 metres – and laid on AFB’s try with a deft pass, among 21 for the game (more than anyone bar the two dummy-havles and Johnson). 7
10 BUNTY AFOA: Has been under plenty of scrutiny and was moved back to a bench role in a late change, ultimately getting just 28 minutes (all but three minutes in one stint). Did more with his time on the paddock than in recent weeks, racking up five strong runs for 54 metres and an enormous 28 tackles – getting through a stack of defensive work late in the first half. 6.5
12 BAYLEY SIRONEN: A bit more lively than Lussick at dummy-half with three runs and closed out the match in the back-row in a 36-minute contribution, finishing with 17 tackles. 6
17 TOM ALE: Less of a role than last week but still more than he was being afforded earlier in the season with 37 minutes – and solid again. Seven runs for 66 metres and 26 tackles without a miss. 6.5
14 TAINE TUAUPIKI: Not used N/A