NRL: Warriors' best shot falls short

By Steve Deane

Justin O'Neill of the Storm. Photo / Getty Images
Justin O'Neill of the Storm. Photo / Getty Images

Storm 32
Warriors 14

Last night's Anzac Day clash with Melbourne was always going to provide a reliable measure of what the Warriors are capable of this season.

The answer is plenty.

They may have gone down by a convincing margin but the bloated scoreline belies the fact that this was the Warriors' best performance of the season.

Despite losing Shaun Johnson before kickoff and fullback Kevin Locke after just five minutes, the Warriors dominated the majority of the match against the competition's best side.

That they didn't win was down to a combination of tough luck, some costly individual blunders and the sheer ruthlessness of the Storm.

Forget about the inflated final score. With 10 minutes to go, the Warriors were every chance of winning. If they play like this every week, they will bolt into the top four by season's end.

Johnson's withdrawal meant a season debut for the excellent Pita Godinet.

The diminutive halfback had a lively, effective match. The same can't be said for the unfortunate Krisnan Inu, who had a tough night trying to cover for Locke at the back.

Two Inu blunders ultimately proved costly, but for the most part the Warriors seemed to have put their error-prone ways behind them.

They turned in by far their most impressive start of the season, dominating the Storm from the outset as props Ben Matulino and Russell Packer laid a tremendous platform.

With Manu Vatuvei also in destructive form, the Warriors smashed the Storm back onto their heels repeatedly. The reward duly came in the 10th minute when wing Bill Tupou produced a brilliant finish to a sustained attack.

The Storm were clearly rattled, coughing up five uncharacteristic errors, with only a lopsided 5-1 early penalty count in the home side's favour preventing them from being completely swamped.

If the Warriors were annoyed by the consistent whistling against them, they would have been furious with the manner of the Storm's first try.

Kevin Proctor clearly raked the ball out of Inu's grasp on a kick return, but the perfectly positioned referee Chris James failed to spot the infringement.

The Storm were not at their best but they were clinical enough to convert the resulting chance, with centre Dane Nielsen crossing.

The hosts then hit the front with a second try in the space of six minutes after Tupou had shelled a spiral bomb.

Vatuvei did well to defuse the initial threat, however Will Chambers crossed out wide following a repeat set.

If the Warriors were disheartened they didn't show it. Ben Henry and Tupou both went close to restoring parity in the closing minutes of the half.

The Warriors' dominance continued after the restart, with two tremendous defensive sets setting up the chance for Lewis Brown to barrel over from dummy half.

An Inu howler - when he shelled the ball on a kick return without an opposing player anywhere near him - was again ruthlessly punished by the Storm with a try to winger Justin O'Neill, but the Warriors hit back swiftly through another brilliant Tupou finish.

Maloney's conversion bounced back off a post to leave the scores level.

The Storm caught a break when Vatuvei knocked on attempting a tackle and once again the hosts converted the chance into points, with Chambers crossing for his second try.

Forced to chase the game once again, the Warriors finally lost their composure, with Inu again coughing up the ball on an early tackle. Chambers pounced to complete his hat-trick and secure the victory. It was an eighth straight success for the Storm this season. None have been harder earned.

- NZ Herald

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