NRL: Warriors bounce back with win

By Paul Lewis

Feleti Mateo of the Warriors makes a break during the round nine NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors makes a break during the round nine NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

WARRIORS 30
BRONCOS 20

It was a game of two halves, or rather two sets of halves - the Warriors' Shaun Johnson and James Maloney against Peter Wallace and new sensation Corey Norman.

Johnson and the (sadly departing) Maloney have been among the pick of the pairings in the NRL so far this season - only the Melbourne Storm pairing of Cooper Cronk and Gareth Widdop have out-performed them statistically in attack so far this season.

However, the Warriors fans got a look at a whole new ball game with Brisbane halves Wallace and Norman. Wallace is a fine organiser, an ideal guidance system with vision and decision-making ability. He is an ideal foil for the 21-year-old Norman, the man replacing the supposedly irreplaceable Darren Lockyer but already being hailed (by Lockyer, among many others) as The Next Big Thing.

Big is the right word. He's 96kg and slippery when he runs; a challenge for defences which have been performing better than the Warriors' - but he was overshadowed as the hugely talented Johnson showed his skills on his home stage.

The outcome was also affected when Wallace went off injured with the second half only five minutes old - though the Broncos were stung into action and scored soon after.

However, this was Johnson's night. He gave the Warriors the lead early when he showed his blistering speed on a double-round to put centre Ben Henry over for a try that looked easy but was all about Johnson's pace and eye for a gap. Then Wallace showed his cool, calm, execution. A 40/20 kick expertly taken was followed by a perfect chip-
kick for a try by centre Jack Reed - disputed by the Warriors' faithful as it seemed Reed might not have forced the ball.

The Broncos took the lead courtesy of a Norman pass. Hot on attack after a good run by hooker Andrew McCullough, Norman threw a bullet-like pass which put second rower Alex Glenn on the outside of an attempted Maloney tackle for the try.

Advantage Wallace and Norman. Then Johnson struck back - a high kick inducing an error from winger Gerard Beale near the line and Johnson gathered the rolling ball to score. Maloney then nailed the kick from near the corner. Advantage Johnson and Maloney.

Another towering Johnson kick had Beale in trouble again, Manu Vatuvei got a hand to the ball and Elijah Taylor mopped up. Maloney - now looking the deadly accurate kicker of last season - added the extras again from wide.

Maloney then popped up at dummy half for the pass that put returning prop Jacob Lillyman over for a try and a 24-10 lead at half time. Another Norman pass looked to have Reed over again but this time it was ruled he did not touch down - but the Broncos hit back when Ben Te'o forced his way over for a soft try after a repeat set of six.

At 24-16 down, the Broncos tried to compensate for Wallace's loss by increasing the intensity and pace of their attack. The Warriors' defence creaked but held, with Maloney and Johnson making telling interventions.

Norman tried to pierce the line by running and slinging out quick passes _ but the loss of Wallace hurt their kicking game and their distribution. Feleti Mateo sealed the game with a try after a string of Broncos errors out of defence. Sam Thaiday scored a last-minute try but the Warriors, with big games by Ben Matulino and Konrad Hurrell among others, showed much improved efficiency and accuracy to claim a win that could well ignite their season.

Scorers: Warriors 30 (B. Henry, S. Johnson, E. Taylor, J. Lillyman, F. Mateo tries; J. Maloney 5 goals), Broncos
20 (J. Reed, A. Glenn, B. Te'o, S. Thaiday tries; C. Parker 2 goals). Halftime:24-10.

- Herald on Sunday

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