NRL: Warriors count cost of first win

By Michael Brown

The Warriors celebrate their first win of the season. Photo / Getty Images
The Warriors celebrate their first win of the season. Photo / Getty Images

Rarely has a victory song been belted out with such gusto. For many of the Warriors players, though, it had been so long they had forgotten some of the words.

The Warriors' dramatic 20-18 defeat of North Queensland at Mt Smart Stadium last night snapped an 11-game, 268-day losing streak and lifted the spirits of everyone at the club.

"Great to sing the victory song even if we forgot it,'' hooker Nathan Friend tweeted last night.

The win came at a cost, however.

Centre Dane Nielsen was ushered off just before halftime with a rib cartilage injury and could be out for some time and both fullback Kevin Locke and utility Ben Henry will be tested this week after being concussed.

The Warriors already have a lengthy injury list but will at least be buoyed by the fact another couple of players should be available for selection to play the unbeaten Rabbitohs at Mt Smart on Sunday.

Jerome Ropati came through unscathed playing for the Vulcans in their 24-24 draw with Windsor in the New South Wales Cup and could slot into centre, winger Manu Vatuvei is close to returning after injuring his ankle in the opening match against Parramatta, fullback/winger Glen Fisiiahi is expected to be available after the recent death of his sister and Russell Packer could also come into contention after a bicep injury.

"We have guys coming back, which is great,'' coach Matt Elliott said. "The cavalry is coming.''

It will create some competition for places, which is what every team needs. There was little accountability in the early rounds because Elliott had few options but to stick with the same players who had bumbled their way through the opening three games and winger is one area where there is good depth developing.

Bill Tupou and Ngani Laumape were very good against the Cowboys. Tupou made seven tackle breaks and a game-high 161m from 17 runs and Laumape made 131m from 11 runs which came on top of his impressive debut against Cronulla the previous weekend.

Laumape looks comfortable in the NRL even though just 19 and usually makes the right decisions. He's also hard working, abrasive and quick and he will be difficult to leave out even though Vatuvei is the club's record try scorer with 102 in 153 games.

The wingers weren't the only ones with good numbers. Captain Simon Mannering made 128m from 14 carries as well as 35 tackles, Todd Lowrie chipped in with 41 tackles and 98m, Ben Matulino ran the ball for 117m, Shaun Johnson was prominent throughout and kicked four goals from four attempts and Konrad Hurrell scored a try, made seven tackle breaks and one linebreak.

Hurrell also made five errors and can be exposed on defence, which highlights the two sides to his game, but Elliott remains committed to the blockbusting centre.

"The best place for Konnie to develop his footy is first grade,'' Elliott said. "It's one of those ones you could think about bouncing back and forwards and it would have been easy to change him in the first few rounds but we stuck in there and I think the longer we stick there with him he will adjust to the tempo of first grade footy over 80 minutes. He scored one good try and nearly got another one. We will get more of the good stuff and squeeze the bad stuff out.''

- APNZ

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