Will the real NZ Warriors please stand up?

Three rounds in, 2 wins on the board, but can anyone tell me if this Warriors team is any good?

An error-ridden loss in Round One, followed by a great defensive effort in Round Two, and then a game of two halves at the weekend — which one of these performances should we come to expect? So far it’s very hard to get a line on where the team is at. But then it wouldn’t be the Warriors if it wasn’t a rollercoaster, would it?!


Saturday evening’s first half was near-flawless. Back at their Rightful Home, the Warriors completed 22 of 23 sets, ran for 657 metres, scored 22 points and, best of all, conceded neither a single point nor a line break. It was great to be home.

The second half started with more of the same, and when Solomone Kata soared through the air to make it 28-0, I could have sworn we were watching a replay from Round Eighteen last year.

Then Sam Tomkins went off (more about him later), the Warriors thought they didn’t need a winger anymore and Parra scored 16 points in 12 minutes. Squeaky bum time as the Warriors faithful held their collective breath. Fortunately, the men from Mt Smart steadied the ship, and Cappy McFadden woke up on Sunday morning with another two points deposited into the account.

If I had to guess, despite the fact the Knights are 3 for 3, I’d say that all of the three teams we’ve played so far will be fishing come playoff time. But considering the horror start the Warriors normally make, if you’d offered me two wins from the first three games, I’d have gladly taken it.

Sixth on the table with another home game at the fortress next week — job well done.

THE SET OF SIX:

1) Manu Vatuvei lives up to his nickname. Against the Eels, The Beast ran for a game-high 230 metres, scored a try and consistently put the Warriors on the front foot. He cops far more criticism than he deserves on defence, gets high praise for his try-scoring exploits but his greatest value lies in the tough hit-ups from his own line. With all the chat around about The Beast tackling French rugby, one can only hope he decides to stick around in 2016 — please Manu!

2) The other Manu was pretty good too. Manu Ma’u must be pushing hard for a Kiwis jumper this year. The Eels ran their attack his way almost all night, and was heavily involved in their second-half comeback. Ma’u certainly didn’t deserve to be in the losing side.

3) Ryan Hoffman is mortal. He ran for 162 metres, made 22 tackles and scored a try, but The Hoff won’t be lacing up the boots for the Phoenix any time soon. After Brother John spilled a Chad Townsend bomb, The Hoff’s heavy touch cost him another 4 points, while proving to the rest of us that he is actually human.

4) How big a price did the Warriors pay for this victory? Reports are surfacing to suggest Sam Tomkins will miss up to six weeks with a torn ligament in his knee. He’s been excellent in the game and a half he has played, and will be missed. How much depends on Tui Lolohea, who has so far taken every chance given to him in 2015. Watch this space.

5) Are Nathan Friend’s days numbered? Thomas Leuluai had his best game at hooker for the Warriors, somewhat spoiling the storyline of Friend’s 200th game. Leuluai’s quick thinking out of dummy-half led to Tui Lolohea’s try and at times he was damaging on defence. With both Friend and Leuluai accustomed to playing 80 minutes, there simply isn’t enough minutes to go around.

6) Always play to the whistle. The most disappointing moment of the match had to be the Eels’ second try. It’s one thing to make an error on your own line — that can happen. But far too many hands on knees waiting for the whistle, while the Eels capitalised and crashed over the line really let the air out of Our Rightful Home. Hopefully that’s a good lesson never to assume anything. The Warriors would do well to remember the advice my mother used to tell me, that ‘to assume makes an ass out of u and me’.

THE GOLDEN POINT

Chad Townsend finally repaid some of Cappy McFadden’s faith. After a disappointing start to the season, Townsend set up three tries: two from kicks (both scored by Solomone Kata — one along the ground and one in the air) and the other from great support play. As one of the least heralded names in this Warriors outfit, his importance is understated. But if Townsend can do all the little things right, and direct the team around the park, it makes life a lot easier for everyone and allows the match-winners to shine.

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