Warriors 19 Brisbane 10
For the first 30 minutes of Saturday night's game against the Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium the Warriors looked half asleep, bumbling and lacking in inspiration before, with 12 minutes to go in the first half, someone lit a fire which didn't die down until they ran off the field 19-10 victors at full time.
The Warriors have now won four of the past five encounters and the Broncos can only think wistfully about the last time they won at Mt Smart, in 2009. Despite this the form sat with the Broncos who have won four on the trot and came into this match sitting at fifth with 18 points. The Warriors were at 11th with 14.
The Warriors, in front of a crowd of 16,025, seemed determined to bust straight through the middle of the Broncos using their big men as battering rams but lacked inspiration when they got inside the Broncos' 20.
Coach Andrew McFadden's desire to see error-free football was sadly lacking with at least a handful of rookie errors in the first half including a case of the dropsies from David Fusitu'a - first when he was on the end of a bomb from Shaun Johnson that he normally would've swallowed instead looking like he had been caught in the headlights and let a sure try go begging.
Fusitu'a bobbled another ball 10m out from the Warriors line which put Brisbane hot on attack and led to the first try from the Broncos with Jake Granville putting a long arm over the line in the 17th minute.
There were five errors in the bank from the Warriors before there was finally a moment of brilliance from Feleti Mateo to put Ben Henry into a yawning hole. He scuttled 40m to score. Johnson converted to draw the scores level with 12 minutes to go before before half-time.
Consistent pressure, a penalty, and a slightly dodgy looking play-the-ball led to Konrad Hurrell barrelling over eight minutes later.
Shaun Johnson, obviously enjoying the Warriors resurgence, booted a massive 45m field goal just before the buzzer, just the fourth of his career.
The second half started in an equally bizarre fashion for the Warriors. Suaia Matagi was put on report after taking out the legs of a player in the air. He put the pressure on his team with a penalty putting the Broncos 10m out. Ngani Laumape was also put on report after a tip tackle on Josh McGuire which could have gone seriously wrong.
Broncos fullback Ben Barba humiliated Sam Tomkins beating him both for speed and strength to burst past him and the fend him off twice to score with 20 minutes to go. Chad Townsend gave the Warriors a bit of breathing space with 15 minutes to go dotting down under the posts.
The Broncos might wonder what they did wrong. Their two Bens - Hunt and Barba - took control of the game early, their fancy footwork dazzling the Warriors but they were simply not consistent enough despite completing more sets of six than the Warriors.
The Warriors ran the ball far more than the Broncos, with at least three lengths of the field more in metres. Predictably the Broncos' Origin stars didn't want to watch this game from the sidelines with Matt Gillett and Sam Thaiday backing up despite not being named earlier in the week. Gillett left the field in the 12th minute with a shoulder issue.Thaiday looked to injure his ankle early on but played on and was a target for the Warriors.
McFadden admits it was a scrappy affair with the Warriors putting themselves under pressure with mistakes. But he praised his players' resilience, saying "we pretty much won that on defence". McFadden pointed to their ability to hold out after Barba's try brought Brisbane back to within three points with a quarter to go.
"That really could have changed the momentum, but we managed to stifle their attack after that and we hung on," he said. "We only conceded 10 points, so I think that was a real positive sign."
Simon Mannering tries to break the Brisbane line for the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Henry, Hurrell, Townsend||Tries||3||Tries||2||Players||Granville, Barba|
|Players||Johnson 3/3 (100%)||Conversions||3||Conversions||1||Players||Hunt 1/2 (50%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Johnson 1/1 (100%)||Field goals||1||Field goals||0||Players|
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin said his players put in a tough performance in a tight contest but "we just opened up a couple of times". He pointed to the period just before halftime, when the Broncos were starved of possession before conceding a try to Hurrell, as particularly costly.
"The game sort of swung on that," he said. "We were chasing in the second half and at 13-10 we were a real good chance to finish positively, but we just weren't good enough today."
Griffin said the extent of Gillett's shoulder problem wasn't immediately clear and the back-rower would have a scan when he got back to Brisbane. "He's got a lot of strength back in it now, so hopefully it's not too serious, but it finished him tonight," he said.
Warriors players celebrate during their nine-point win over Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images