NRL: Warriors hang on for crucial win

By Michael Brown

Feleti Mateo of the Warriors is mobbed by teammates Ben Henry and Jerome Ropati after his try during the round eight NRL match. Photo / Getty Images.
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors is mobbed by teammates Ben Henry and Jerome Ropati after his try during the round eight NRL match. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 25
Gold Coast 24

There was an imposing gloom around Mt Smart Stadium this afternoon as dark clouds circled around but the Warriors' season looks a lot brighter after a much-needed win over the Titans.

It was just their second win of the year and, quite incredibly, they are only four points outside the top eight. It is perhaps a little over-dramatic to suggest their season was on the line but another loss would have been a difficult one to take and their season could have unravelled after a run of narrow defeats.

They nearly lost another one in the final 10 minutes. They led 24-6 with 16 minutes remaining but allowed the Titans back into the match with two converted tries.

It wasn't until Shaun Johnson nailed a 25m field goal with 90 seconds remaining, the first of his NRL career, that they made the game safe because the Titans scored again with the final play of the match.

"I would have been pretty ropeable [if we had lost],'' Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman said. "It would have crushed me but we got the result and that's the main thing.''

It's a result that saw the Warriors climb off the bottom of the table into 14th ahead of Saturday's match against the Bulldogs in Wellington. It's certainly not a time for cartwheels but it will do wonders for an outfit short on confidence after a string of narrow defeats.

There were many within a soggy Mt Smart, including Lillyman, who couldn't help but think they were destined to lose another tight one.

"I was on the sideline for a bit there and I was just about pulling my hair out,'' he said. "But we hung in there and defended our line well. At this stage, we will take the result and move on.''

There was no sense it was going to end like that at 24-6. The Warriors were largely dominant as they controlled the tempo and territory.

Their four-prop rotation gave them plenty of momentum and allowed Johnson and Thomas Leuluai the time and space to dictate play. They also backed it up with solid defence and an effective kicking game.

"I didn't feel our domination of the game was reflected on the scoreboard during those long periods,'' coach Matt Elliott said.

They enjoyed a 16-6 halftime lead after tries to Manu Vatuvei, Feleti Mateo and Bill Tupou and extended it when Johnson and Ben Henry crossed but errors and silly penalties started creeping into their game. Gold Coast also started muscling up, quite literally at times as tempers flared, and started to gain control.

"It was a very winnable game,'' Titans coach John Cartwright said. ``It was one we banked on winning and just getting away from those cluster of sides that are appearing [near the top-eight]. We let the game get away.

"I just think if you can pressure the Warriors consistently, you will get results.''

There is a lot the Warriors need to do to tidy up their execution. They completed 71 per cent of their sets to the Titans' 86 per cent, made twice as many errors as the visitors (14 to seven) and missed four more tackles (19 to 15).

They also lost Kevin Locke to a prolapsed disc, with the fullback due to spend the night in hospital because of the level of painkillers he was on. It was a bizarre incident, with no one around him, but he fell straight to the turf as he turned to chase a kick into the corner.

There were plenty of other sore bodies in the Warriors' camp. But the minds will be feeling a lot lighter.

Warriors 25 (Manu Vatuvei, Feleti Mateo, Bill Tupou, Shaun Johnson, Ben Henry tries; Johnson 2 gls, fg) Gold Coast 24 (Jamal Idris 2, William Zillman, Anthony Don tries; Aidan Sezer 4 gls). HT: 16-6.

- APNZ

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