League: Lightning start dazzles Warriors

By Peter Jessup

ROOSTERS 38
WARRIORS 12

The Warriors have focused lately on coming out hard and fast but that went out the window at Mt Smart yesterday when they allowed the Roosters the head start of three early tries as a pathway to victory.

Why, oh why, can they not play all 80 minutes? Had they played all game as they did in the second quarter, they may well have won.

But at least they didn't play the whole game as they did in the first quarter, in which case they would have been done by a cricket score.

The return of captain Steve Price a week earlier than expected after 10 weeks out with a hamstring tear gave them a lift, but five-eighth Michael Witt withdrew again with a groin tear and Ruben Wiki was sidelined with rib-cartilage damage.

Neither is likely to be available to travel to Newcastle next week, and wing Manu Vatuvei is three weeks away. Roosters fullback Amos Roberts and captain Craig Fitzgibbon were also ruled out yesterday with knee and head injuries respectively.

The visitors scored five tries from kicks, four tries on the last tackle. Auckland-born wing Shaun Kenny-Dowall had a double inside five minutes, the first from a kick by Braith Anasta and the second from a Willie Mason off-load. Then Anasta pulled down Mitchell Pearce's kick and scored next to the posts and with nine minutes gone it was 14-0.

"We did a lot of tackling early, they executed perfectly," Price said. "Their kicks were spot-on and they isolated our guys well. We probably should have put more pressure on their kickers."

Thanks to Price's presence the Warriors didn't try to play catch-up right away, instead mounting pressure to force a tackle turnover then engineering a try for left wing Aidan Kirk.

But they couldn't stop the roll-on the Roosters got from their big men and territorial advantage led to another two tries as Anasta, and then Setaimata Sa, hauled down kicks from Pearce and it was 20-4 at quarter time.

Then the Warriors started playing. The defence stiffened with gang-tackles to shut down Mason. The attack lifted and Kirk, who had his best game of the three he's played, made a break that allowed another improver in replacement hooker Ian Henderson to score from dummy-half.

Price said the change was down to possession. "We got a bit of ball. It's hard to stop a side like they are when they have so much possession."

The first 40 ended with some push-and-shove between Brent Tate and Anasta and a penalty to the Warriors that made the score a not insurmountable 20-12.

The home side needed to score first after the break but pressure from repeat sets of six was relieved when Jerome Ropati threw a long pass over the sideline, then Grant Rovelli kicked straight to Kenny-Dowall.

And when Logan Swann produced a silly strip on the Warriors' 10 metre line, Anasta ran in a simple try and converted it. The game was gone. Kenny-Dowall got his hat-trick on an intercept off Ropati, the Warriors' centre rusty after injury.

The opposing coaches were in agreement on one thing, Brad Fittler declaring yesterday's win their best this season and Ivan Cleary saying the Roosters were the best side they'd played this year.

It was the Roosters' first game outside Sydney and Fittler said they had made a big effort to overcome the travel factor. "The players who succeed with travel are the tough players. I thought we were very tough tonight."

Positives? Price played more than 50 minutes though short of his ground-making best; Henderson's improving dummy-half running and service; Tate's continued improvement; Lance Hohaia's consistency and kicking.

Plus the second-quarter comeback. And they did enough in the second 40 to keep the bulk of the 11,922 crowd involved until the last minutes.

Roosters benchman James Aubusson is on report for a late, high shot on Grant Rovelli, as is Brent Tate for leading into a tackle with his forearm.

- NZ Herald

Roosters 38: Shaun Kenny-Dowall 3, Braith Anasta 2, Setaimata Sa, Sam Perrett tries; Braith Anasta 4 goals.
Warriors 12: Aidan Kirk, Ian Henderson tries; Lance Hohaia 2 goals.

H/T: 20-12.

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