Another week, another golden point loss.
With the Cronulla defeat still fresh in the memory, this weekend hurts just that little bit more. Not just because the Warriors came so agonisingly close to the two points for the second time in three games, not just because it was against a Manly squad sitting below them on the ladder, but because it is a match the men from Mt Smart will look back at and wonder how they didn’t win, wonder why haven’t finally broken the Perth hoodoo.
After a rocky start, when for a brief moment it felt like the torrential rain was about to drown everything that has been good about the past few months, the Kiwi side worked their way back into the match and hammered away at the Manly door waiting for it to break down. It nearly did. On multiple occasions. But somehow the Warriors left WA with nothing to show for their efforts.
It’s only natural to be frustrated, to be heartbroken, to still be curled up in the darkest corner of the living room trying to hide from the replays of Daly Cherry-James-Maloney-Evans kicking drop goal after drop goal after drop goal until there’s nothing but Steedens over all the walls and every time you close your eyes all you can see is a big haystack of grown men in NRL jerseys celebrating with no Warriors’ logo in sight.
It’d be easy to feel sorry for yourself, to let your mind drift towards the those dark questions about why this always happens to us, to wonder why there’s always a downpour just around the corner whenever we dare to dream. To wonder why puddles appear seemingly out of nowhere even when the sun is shining. What have we fans done to deserve this? Was it something we did? Or didn’t do? Something we said? Or didn’t say?
Who knows? Who are we to make sense of the rugby league gods? It wasn’t the right result on Saturday night, but at the end of the day things aren’t that bad. In fact I’d argue that they’re actually quite good. And anyway, we’re never going to stop the rain by complaining. So instead we must lift our head up from our hands, dust off the negativity, wipe away the tears, pop open the umbrella and believe that if we keep playing like this it won’t be long before the sun shines down on Warrior Nation once again.
SET OF SIX
1) The perfect display of patience, minus the result. After a difficult first 15 minutes, where Manly dominated possession and took a 12–0 lead, the Warriors displayed their recently acquired mental strength, maintained their composure under pressure, waited for the tide to turn and then hit back to even things up before the end of the first half. In the second 40, the men from Mt Smart kept the Sea Eagles buried at their own end, controlled the flow of the game and created more than enough opportunities to secure the win. They might not have come away with the final result, but if they play like that for the rest of the season, there’s really nothing for us fans to be worried about.
2) It’s a game of inches. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Warriors finished three consecutive sets by trapping Manly only one metre out from their own line. At the 65-minute mark, the bounce of the ball eluded Solomone Kata when all he had to do was gather and score. With only eight minutes remaining, Thomas Leuluai burst through the line, slipped out of the covering tackle but couldn’t regain his footing in time to dive over for the match-winning try. And in golden point Shaun Johnson’s field goal was charged down by Jake Trbojevic, who dived on the ball and Manly marched up the other end to steal the win. With so many opportunities to have won that match, should we blame a lack of execution? Or on any other night would the men from Mt Smart have won by double figures?
3) Bunty Afoa at the double. Forget about the two tries he scored, for a 19-year-old, playing out of position, to look this comfortable at the NRL level in only his second match is a great sign that the future is very bright for this young man.
4) The Tui Lolohea dilemma. Coach Cappy has copped a lot of criticism for not introducing Tui Lolohea into the match until the 82nd minute, but where do you play him? It’s a really tricky situation, as at times this season Lolohea could arguably have been one of the first names on the teamsheet, but with the emergence of David Fusitu’a at the back and Ken Maumalo on the wing, where does Lolohea fit in now? Can he really be an interchange player? Can he regain his starting spot without an injury to someone else in that backline? What would you do?
5) Why start Gavet and Gubb? With all the uproar about Lolohea riding the pine, very little has been made of the decision to start James Gavet and Charlie Gubb in the front row, but to me this was the much more puzzling choice. With Albert Vete, Jacob Lillyman and Bodene Thompson all out injured and the Warriors’ prop rotation lacking in experience, why did Ben Matulino spend the first quarter of the game on the bench? Was it just a coincidence that the game started to turn once he stepped onto the field?
6) Not the most damaging loss. A trip to Perth was always going to be difficult, and the Warriors can never beat Manly, no matter what the form guide says. Winning a few away games will make life easier for the men from Mt Smart, and especially against Canberra this week to close the gap to sixth spot and a home semi final, but the key remains the four home fixtures. Take care of those and the Warriors will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS