NRL: That was then...this is now

By Michael Brown

Konrad Hurrel makes a determined charge against the Roosters on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images
Konrad Hurrel makes a determined charge against the Roosters on Sunday. Photo / Getty Images

Even Warriors HQ would admit they were not in great shape to win their earlier games. Michael Brown looks at five key phases in the game against the Roosters that illustrate the team's progress since then

1. 11th minute (Warriors 6-0)

This set probably went unnoticed by most but summed up their drive and execution and allowed them to build pressure. It started on the Warriors' own 20m line with a tap restart after a strong defensive set with Manu Vatuvei carving out 11m and was followed by good charges from Ngani Laumape, Sam Rapira and then Ben Matulino. Very quickly and easily they made it up to the Roosters' 30m line before Shaun Johnson put in a clever chip that was gathered 2m out by Anthony Minichiello. The Roosters fullback looked up to find a bullocking Konrad Hurrell barging him out over the deadball line to force a goal line dropout and repeat set. Textbook league.

2. 25th minute (Warriors 10-0)

The Warriors were building pressure and, consequently, the Roosters were struggling to get out of their own territory. One of their attacks, however, broke down when Simon Mannering tried to offload only for Michael Jennings to snaffle the ball and set off for the Warriors' line 90m away. He had a 5m headstart on Johnson but was mowed down by the 30m line. The chase was impressive, not least of all because Jennings is often regarded as the fastest man in the NRL (clearly not), but the scrambling defence after that was even more impressive. The Warriors quickly got back into their defensive line and held on for the remainder of the set until a James Maloney grubber went long.

3. 33rd minute (Warriors 10-0)

It was inevitable the Roosters would enjoy a period of dominance at some stage. After being contained for the opening 30 minutes, they started to get a roll-on. In the 33rd minute, Sonny Bill Williams broke through the line and the Roosters seemed destined to score as he firstly offloaded to Maloney, who passed to Minichiello. But just like a tennis player who forces their opponent to hit one more shot to win a point in the hope of them making an error, the Warriors scrambled to force the Roosters to make one more pass and the last one from Minichiello to Mitchell Aubusson went forward. "Wow," television commentator Brett Kimmorley exclaimed. "Where did the Warriors players come from? The scramble came from everywhere." What was even more satisfying was seeing the frustration on the Roosters' faces.

4. 52nd-55th minute (Roosters 12-10)

The game entered a critical phase early in the second half as both sides tried to gain ascendancy. It was a classic arm wrestle as it ebbed and flowed from one end to the other. That was until the Roosters enjoyed four consecutive sets but each time the Warriors defused the threat with strong defence and sound judgment. Importantly, they then followed that up with a good set of their own immediately after, when they went from their own 20m to the Roosters' tryline. Ben Matulino actually touched down but the video referee ruled that Vatuvei had knocked on from an attempted slap-back. The next time they got their hands on the ball, Glen Fisiiahi raced nearly 90m for a hugely significant converted try.

5. 65th minute (Warriors 16-12)

Sometimes luck is just as important as skill and commitment and all those things that help teams win. Luck was certainly on the Warriors' side when Fisiiahi managed to slap the ball out of Shaun Kenny-Dowall's hands as the Roosters centre went to score. The Warriors' line had been breached by a combination of a poor read by Vatuvei, who came in off his wing to try to put a big hit on Maloney, and quick hands to put Kenny-Dowall in the clear. Fisiiahi's slap might work only once in every 20 attempts but it came at a crucial time as the Roosters enjoyed a period of sustained pressure. "All that was missing was a balaclava and a flashlight," the commentator said in reference to Fisiiahi stealing the ball. The Warriors didn't burgle the win from the Roosters ... they earned it.

- NZ Herald

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