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New Zealand Warriors downed by St George Illawarra Dragons


David Long

Warriors 12 Dragons 31

Leeson Ah Mau looks to escape the clutches of the Warriors defence.

Leeson Ah Mau looks to escape the clutches of the Warriors defence. Photo: Getty Images

The Warriors' Eden Park hoodoo remains intact as they were defeated 31-12 by the Dragons at the windswept stadium on Saturday.

It was their fourth game at the home of rugby in Auckland since 2011 and once again, in front of 14,392 spectators, they failed to pick up a win and as a consequence have gone to no wins and two losses for the season.

Warriors versus St George Illawarra
View Match Statistics
Players Tomkins, Ropati Tries 2 Tries 5 Players Rein, Quinlan, Beale, Morris, Creagh
Players Johnson 1/2 (50%) Conversions 1 Conversions 5 Players Widdop 5/5 (100%)
Players Johnson 1/1 (100%) Penalty goals 1 Penalty goals 0 Players
Players Field goals 0 Field goals 1 Players Widdop 1/1 (100%)

This was a marginally improved performance from the Warriors, especially in the first half where they looked far more composed and up for the challenge than they did against the Eels last weekend.

Shaun Johnson got the backs moving well and Sam Tomkins continued to find his feet in southern hemisphere league, although it is concerning that he continues to struggle under high balls.

Chad Townsend wasn't as impressive. At times the five-eighth was guilty of trying too hard to make something happen, and with Thomas Leuluai now back training with the team, it's likely Townsend will soon have a battle on his hands to retain his spot.

Ben Matulino of the Warriors looks for support.

Ben Matulino of the Warriors looks for support. Photo: Getty Images

Winger Manu Vatuvei pulled out on the morning of the game with a shoulder injury and was replaced by the highly promising David Fusitua, who was unlucky not to be selected in the first place, after impressive performances in the Auckland Nines and trial game against the Broncos.

Vatuvei iced his shoulder during the team's training session on Wednesday, but didn't think it was much of an issue at the time.

Fusitua had some nice touches, particularly early in the game, but there were moments in the second half that might have kept him awake on Saturday night.

Five minutes into the game Tomkins posted his first try in the NRL, with the England winger put into a hole thanks to a nicely timed pass from Townsend, with the move coming after a couple of big charges from Ben Matulino up the middle.

But like last week against the Tigers, the Dragons were able to work their way back into the game and they went ahead following a sneaky run under the posts from hooker Mitch Rein and subsequent conversion by Gareth Widdop.

Thirteen minutes before the break, the Warriors' attack drifted wide to the right, close to the Dragons' line, and Jerome Ropati looked like getting pushed out of bounds, but the veteran was able to change direction, cut back inside and score the try.

The Dragons came close to scoring seven minutes later when a Widdop chip and chase opened up the Warriors' defence and the attack was continued by Jason Nightingale, but it all came to nothing as Adam Quinlan allowed the ball to slip out of his hand as he attempted to ground it.

The last points of the half came from a Johnson penalty to make the score 12-6 at the break.

Within a minute of the restart the Dragons were on level terms thanks to a howler from Tomkins, who fumbled a high ball. Quinlan scooped up the ball and got the try.

Gerard Beale scored off a Widdop grubber two minutes later as all the good work the Warriors did in the first half was thrown away.

In the 54th minute Morris ran 100 metres for the Dragons' next try to end this game as a contest.

The game ended with more misery for the Warriors with Ben Henry limping off with what looked like yet another knee injury. But there was more to come, with a Widdop field goal and then another try to Ben Creagh.

And if the Warriors want some more bad news, they've got two more games to go at Eden Park this year.

Earlier in the day the Warriors' reserve-grade side drew with Illawarra 12-12, while in the NYC game the Dragons won 40-16.

3 comments so far

  • To start the season with 2 wins is more than most Dragon fans could have expected. Listening to the radio call Widdop again managed the plays that counted and again kicked 100% plus the field goal. But its a long season so we will take it one game at a time!!

    saint mike II
    Kiama Downs
    Date and time
    March 15, 2014, 8:50PM
    • This game was much better than described in this report ~ there were actually TWO sides on the field in a contest that either side could have won.
      The Warriors attack relied entirely on the strong wind behind them in the 1st half, whereas the Dragons used flair and sharp running attack. This gave the game away ~ the Warriors put more faith in the wind than in their attack, and the scoreline reflected that at half-time and full-time.
      While the Dragons played with confident attacking mojo for the full game, the Warriors only relied on attacking flair, which they have more than plenty of, in the 2nd half, giving the Dragons too much attacking momentum throughout the game, momentum that was capitalised on. Kick-based attack doesn't fully allow for the fact that when the ball is kicked, the opposition can, and often does, get it. Brett Morris scored a 102 meter try that exemplified this fact.

      Mt Colah
      Date and time
      March 16, 2014, 11:04AM
      • Well done to the Dragons, two on the trot is about one-third of the games they won all season in 2013. Even the most loyal Red V supporters would concede they're not title contenders — or likely to beat the top four teams, all we want is to for our team to be competitive, play some good football and show us the ticker that they have lacked for the past two seasons. Bring on the Sharks ...

        Albert Ross
        Date and time
        March 17, 2014, 6:06PM

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