Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors down plucky Roosters

Russell Packer of the Warriors in action. Photo / Getty Images
Russell Packer of the Warriors in action. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors 30
Roosters 26

Lashings of brilliance, a few pounds of despair and tons of entertainment. The Warriors served up the recipe that has characterised their 2012 season, to take a crucial victory over a brave Roosters side in a thriller.

It was a bizarre match. The Warriors scored some cracking tries but also gifted the Roosters several soft four- pointers.

They had several chances to kill off the game but it was only a fantastic tackle by Alehana Mara that saved a certain try in the 79th minute - which would have left the Warriors contemplating a sour defeat.

"It was frustrating," said Shaun Johnson. "Sometimes it felt they would score a try when we were on top. We were pretty dirty on ourselves under the posts."

The saddest note was another knee injury to the luckless Jerome Ropati, another dislocation in the first half that will see him ruled out for six to eight weeks at least.

It forced the Warriors to play for over 50 minutes with James Maloney at fullback.

The home side looked in trouble deep in the second half, before two tries in three minutes gave them an eight point lead with just over 15 minutes to go.

Shaun Johnson scored two brilliant tries while Konrad Hurrell also grabbed an impressive brace, though he was exposed on defence for two of the Roosters tries. Apart from the spectacular, there was also the one per centers that were crucial; Simon Mannering beating three Roosters to a loose ball in the 60th minute; Jacob Lillyman stopping Anthony Minichiello dead in his tracks in the last.

There was a plenty of effort and scrambling on defence, though a lack of urgency at key times will concern coach Brian McClennan, as will the concession of 26 points. Still, that is for another time. For now the Warriors can enjoy the feeling of back-to-back victories and sit on the cusp of the top eight.

Brian Smith was apopletic about the "diabolical refereeing" (and they did come up with several bemusing decisions) that he believed cost his side dearly but generous in his praise of the home side.

"They are a very different side [from round five]," said Smith, "their forwards in particular are going real well."

With State of Origin just round the corner, this was mate against mate, Kiwi style. Shaun Kenny-Dowall was up-ended by Shaun Johnson, while Jared Warea-Hargreaves smashed into Manu Vatuvei at full steam and neither flinched. The Roosters opened the scoring in the 21st minute in a controversial manner, with the video referee ruling that Joseph Leilua had somehow forced the ball, despite Alehana Mara having it fully in his grasp as they both slid across the try line. Simultaneous contact was the verdict passed to a frustrated Simon Mannering.

The visitors doubled their lead just two minutes later, after a defensive blunder from Manu Vatuvei led to the Roosters re-gathering a grubber kick and Aidan Guerra strolled over in the opposite corner.

Just as the half looked to be slipping away, the Warriors found something just before the half hour mark. Maloney scooted from dummy half before putting Hurrell on the outside of his man. The 20-year-old burst confidently into the clear and sprinted a full 60 metres to score down the right touchline to score. The 101kg Hurrell is more known for his power and strength but the way he eased through the gears to cruise past fullback Anthony Minichiello was poetry in motion. Despite this boost, the Warriors still seemed to lack urgency in defence and were slow to react to a spilled bomb, with Tautau Moga diving over only for the try to be rubbed out after video referral - justice, perhaps, after the earlier call.

But that man Hurrell was over again five minutes before halftime, with Mannering doing well to put the Rooster defenders on their heels before sending Hurrell inside.

Moments before they lost Jerome Ropati, sent into Disneyland by a shoulder charge from Boyd Cordner, who went on report. Ropati looked to have suffered a blow to the head but was later revealed to have dislocated his knee.

The Roosters started the second half with great intensity and scored a brilliant 50m try to Moga minutes after the break after chancing their arm on the fifth tackle. The Warriors' response was immediate with Johnson dancing through the Roosters defence minutes later.

This was another mesmerising effort by the halfback, who produced a step that called to mind 1980s Rooster Brett Papworth.

But still the mayhem went on and, after a costly Warriors error, Warea-Hargreaves smashed his way over beside the posts. The Warriors regained the lead in the 63rd minute with 1.79m Johnson outjumping 1.94m Kenny-Dowall to catch a Maloney bomb and force it. A Vatuvei try extended the lead to eight before the heart stopping finale.

Warriors 30 (K. Hurrell 2, S. Johnson 2, M.Vatuvei tries J. Maloney 5 goals), Roosters 26 (J. Leilua, A. Guerra, T. Moga, J. Warea-Hargreaves, A. Minichiello tries, B. Anasta 3 goals). Halftime: 12-10.

- Herald on Sunday

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