NRL: Winners are grinners

By Michael Brown

Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors celebrates after scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty Images.
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors celebrates after scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 28
Knights 12

The Warriors were once again smiling after 80 minutes of football but this time it was OK after they turned around one of their most humiliating defeats in the club's history to beat Newcastle today.

Last week some were seen laughing and joking after their record 62-6 defeat to Penrith, which angered many fans who said they didn't care enough. Today they answered in the only meaningful way.

Call it the bounce-back effect. Everyone was watching, including Newcastle, to see if the Warriors could respond after their capitulation last weekend.

The fact they did extended an extraordinary trend. Five of the six teams who have had 50 points put on them responded the following weekend with a win.

The Warriors did it on the back of growing confidence and belief - two qualities desperately missing last week - and impressively kept the Knights scoreless in the second half.

They trailed 12-10 at the break but two tries in two second-half minutes gave the Warriors the initiative and, although they came under considerable pressure in the final 20 minutes, held on for a win that will ease the strain on everyone from the players to the kit man.

The Warriors were far from perfect but that will worry few after the week they have just endured and they were able to enjoy the final eight minutes after Elijah Taylor scored from a clever Shaun Johnson short ball to put the game beyond doubt.

They scrambled well in defence and carried the ball with more purpose and belief. It was certainly willing at times _ and Russell Packer and Kade Snowden traded blows - and the likes of Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino and Taylor made good metres up through the middle.

They tried to build pressure, and had a decent spells, but it was often released by a sloppy pass, penalty or dropped ball and their kicks to the corners were easily neutralised by the Knights.

The Warriors also tried to play some football, and Feleti Mateo looked in the mood with his best game for some time, but what was often questionable was where they were trying to do it. It was a risky tactic but they figured they had to take the game to the visitors.

They started well, with Manu Vatuvei crossing for his 108th try of his career in the third minute after a good offload from Russell Packer and a quick shift of the ball.

Thomas Leuluai also scored a spectacular try when he launched himself over the ruck American football-style when Ben Matulino offloaded close to the line.

But Newcastle scored two tries of their own, both to James McManus, as they found joy attacking the Warriors' right-edge defence of Johnson, Carlos Tuimavave and Glen Fisiiahi. Both tries were scored down that corridor and McManus was unlucky not to be awarded a third when Darius Boyd sliced through some limp defence but Willie Mason was deemed to have obstructed Johnson.

Tuimavave didn't emerge from the sheds for the second half with a sore neck and complaining he didn't have feeling in one arm. Centre has been an issue all season, with injuries and loss of form seeing constant changes, and it saw Simon Mannering slot into right centre which actually strengthened the defensive line.

He scored the second of two quick tries when Kevin Locke snaffled a Johnson spiral bomb and passed to Mannering and it came soon after a Rapira try when he charged at the line from a short pass.

The challenge now for the Warriors is to win again. And again.

Warriors 28 (Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Sam Rapira, Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor tries; Shaun Johnson 4 gls) Knights 12 (James McManus 2 tries; Kurt Gidley 2 gls). HT: 10-12.

Mateo may be Warriors' lifesaver

They call it the bounce back, but how high will it go?

All power to the Warriors for their stirring win over the Newcastle Knights after the shocker of all shockers against Penrith.

At least they played like they meant it this week, which still doesn't excuse the Penrith disgrace.

Manu Vatuvei, who I've bagged on previous error-riddled occasions, really stood out and led the way at Mt Smart yesterday.

But it was Feleti Mateo who gave most cause for encouragement - if he can play with that intent every week then this club has a chance.

Mateo is a rare beast in the NRL - his offloading can be outstanding and he is also a powerful ball carrier on his day. The trouble is, there haven't been enough of those days since coach Ivan Cleary left. But when Mateo carries the ball well, his offloading follows suit.

However, there were still dumb mistakes, a lack of class direction in the halves, and confusion late in the tackle count. The bounce back only works now and then. This was one of those days when things turned out all right. But I'm in the camp that is a long way from being convinced.

- Chris Rattue


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