League: Warriors throw away win with endgame panic

By Peter Jessup

Manly 20
Warriors 14

Just to prove that they can do it, the Warriors stayed with NRL frontrunners Manly for 71 minutes yesterday before gifting them two soft tries and a victory - a win that should have been theirs.

They held the Eagles out after goal-line drop-outs and repelled repeat sets of six, then opened like the Red Sea for hooker Matt Ballin to score out of dummy-half and let prop Brent Kite stroll under their posts.

Coach Ivan Cleary admitted he was disappointed, frustrated and angry afterwards, and had found it a struggle to find the words to address his players.

"Some individuals - and that's been the case throughout the year - just come up with plays that are not up to NRL standard," Cleary said. "There's a lot of guys out there who played well and a lot who didn't."

The same names feature in each list, time and again: Micheal Luck a tireless tackler, Simon Mannering good, Steve Price making lots of ground, Brent Tate enthusiastic and threatening.

But the halves again failed to threaten let alone dominate; their kicking game was poor, and the rest seemed not to know what was going to happen because there was little sign of any chase.

Twice, Lance Hohaia dropped Matt Orford's high ball from the kick-off and on a third occasion he caught it, then threw a bad pass that went to ground. Bench players Evarn Tuimavave and Epalahame Lauaki did not provide the impact required, and the latter continues to come up with errors.

Skipper Steve Price said they lost the game rather than the Sea Eagles winning it.

"We let ourselves down. The effort is there but each individual has to understand we can't score a try then drop it on the first tackle," Price said.

They had worked hard and achieved much but he knew the fans would not see this loss any differently to any other.

It's hard to understand how the side can toil so assiduously for seven-eighths of the game then dismiss that effort and achievement with dumb decision-making, poor errors, and blank spots mentally and on defence.

Their first points came from the injury returnees, wing Manu Vatuvei thrilling the crowd of over 7100 with a blockbusting 60-metre run down the left touchline, in which he palmed off Manly opposite Michael Robertson and fullback Brett Stewart like rag dolls, Michael Witt converting.

But later, those two Warriors clearly drooped with fatigue. Witt was pressured by rushing defence and his game was rusty and slower than it should be, and it was on Vatuvei's wing that Manly found space to get Stewart over for their first points.

Three times Manly were denied by the video referee Graeme West, and perhaps Robertson's touchdown, taking out the corner flag, was worth a benefit-of-the-doubt ruling.

Manly's coach Des Hasler was happy with the result but not the way they went about it, believing those and three other opportunities should have been converted to points.

"The Warriors picked the best side they've had for the past month, we came off the bye and it's always difficult to come here," Hasler said, praising his side.

His captain Matt Orford said that at 6-4 down at the break the Eagles knew they could grind on to victory. Towards the end, the Warriors panicked and came up with errors when they should have just focused on holding the ball and completing their sets, Orford said.

Vatuvei limped off late, favouring the left leg with the just-repaired fibula, which will be checked today. * The Warriors juniors continued their strong showing in the under-20s Toyota Cup with a 38-10 drubbing of their Manly counterparts in the curtainraiser at Mt Smart yesterday.

Once again, their forwards laid a good platform and their backs profited. Their fifth consecutive win will lift them into the top-four.

The Warriors skipped out to a 12-0 lead after 10 minutes, but Manly closed the gap to 12-10 before solid centre Rusty Bristow found the line.

Bristow also finished off a classic Warriors try mid-second half, the ball well spread, to beat the man, to take the visitors' last chance away.

- NZ Herald

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