NRL: Warriors break losing streak

By Michael Brown

Simon Mannering of the Warriors is tackled during the match against the North Queensland Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
Simon Mannering of the Warriors is tackled during the match against the North Queensland Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors 20
Cowboys 18

The Warriors won. True story.

They hadn't done it since July last year - 268 days ago - and it snapped an 11-game losing streak. Afterwards it was like an enormous cloud had lifted from Mt Smart Stadium and what made it even more incredible was the fact they played the last five minutes with only 12 on the field.

They had already lost centre Dane Nielsen (rib) and Kevin Locke (concussion) and when Ben Henry staggered from the field with a head knock they had already used their 10 interchanges.

It provided even more theatre for what was already a dramatic match but, in some ways, it was only appropriate given what had come in the weeks and months before.

It's not the time to get carried away, especially with the unbeaten Rabbitohs to venture to Mt Smart next Sunday, but they will give themselves more chances to win games if they replicate that performance each week.

"I'm really, really happy for the players,'' Elliott said. "I think the word pride is sometimes overused but the adversity we encountered in that game, losing three outside backs and having to finish the game with 12 men, was possibly the best way we could eke out a result. If everything stuck, it certainly could have been a bit more comfortable but I think we needed to win that way.''

Winning wasn't the only funny thing that happened. They also scored in the opening 40 minutes for the first time this season. It took 39 minutes but it finally came when Elijah Taylor crossed and it was the injection the players, and the crowd of 10,572, needed to believe they could actually win a game.

It had looked a little ominous earlier when Kalifa Faifai Loa and Brent Tate scored to give North Queensland a 12-0 lead after 25 minutes but the Warriors hadn't been playing that poorly and Taylor's try kept them in the game.

They played with more intent and creativity than other games and halves Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai looked more threatening.

Some of that had to do with the return of hooker Nathan Friend from his troublesome shoulder injury. The service from dummy half was crisper which gave Johnson and Leuluai more time and space and put the Warriors on the front foot.

It was patently illustrated when Johnson hit a gap to score five minutes after the restart and when Konrad Hurrell bustled over in the 52nd minute, the Warriors led 18-12. It was the first time they had led a game this season and the confidence grew.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, looked a little rattled. They have been having their own issues and struggled to complete sets and butchered a couple of tries with the line open.

Johnson landed a pressure kick with three minutes remaining to give the Warriors a 20-12 lead but Antonio Winterstein scored a minute later to set up a grandstand finish.

"When you come out on top of a game like that, it feels pretty good after,'' captain Simon Mannering said.

The challenge now is to do it again.

Warriors 20 (Elijah Taylor, Shaun Johnson, Konrad Hurrell tries; Johnson 4 gls)
Cowboys 18 (Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brent Tate, Antonio Winterstein tries; Johnathan Thurston 3 gls).
HT: 6-12.

- APNZ

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