NRL: Warriors achieve a famous five

By Michael Brown

Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors celebrates after scoring a try during the round 16 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos. Photo / Getty Images.
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors celebrates after scoring a try during the round 16 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 18
Broncos 16

The Warriors are looming as a side few teams will want to play after achieving a fifth-straight win over the Broncos yesterday.

It's not something many would have said six weeks ago after their capitulation against Penrith but they are playing with confidence and accuracy which are dangerous qualities to have. They now head to Perth to tackle the table-topping Rabbitohs next Sunday for a game coach Matt Elliott described as "the ultimate test'' of where his side is at.

Where they are is midtable but it's improving rapidly and they are on the same points as the eighth-placed Knights and only two points behind the Titans in fifth. Sunday's win also equalled their third-best winning run as a club and was the first time Elliott had achieved five consecutive wins as an NRL coach.

In many respects they can count themselves a little lucky. Even though they played well and completed 86 percent of their sets, the Broncos were even better with a staggering 90 percent and controlled much of the second half.

They might have won it, too, had Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell not snaffled a long cutout ball from Scott Prince in the 71st minute as Brisbane players queued up to score and then raced 90m to score under the posts.

"It was a make-or-break play,'' Elliott said. "But that's what NRL-quality footballers have to do sometimes. They have to come up with those big decisions. If it went the other way, we would be disappointed with him, but we would understand what he was trying to achieve.''

Even then, the Broncos had a chance to send the game into golden point but Corey Parker failed with a 42m penalty attempt as the final hooter sounded in the background.

It brought to an end an enthralling contest. Mistakes and penalties were rare, which meant the game had few stoppages. For the Broncos, who were looking to atone for the 56-18 hammering they received five weeks ago that signalled the start of the Warriors' winning run, it was a difficult way to lose.

"It was an extremely high-quality game,'' Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin said. "That's why it's disappointing to lose because there was an awful amount of effort, discipline and mental toughness that went into that performance. That's when it hurts the most when you put in a performance like that.''

It's probably a game the Warriors would have lost earlier in the season as they went down in a series of close ones. They seem to have overcome the anxieties they experienced at the end of games and are following a gameplan that works for them.

Six times this season they have completed more than 70 percent of their sets and they have gone on to win five of them. They also have the ability to add a little flair but it is their effort on defence that is winning them games.

Their attack was a little off yesterday but they stayed in the contest even as the Broncos hammered away at their line.

"We looked like a team coming out of a bye because our execution wasn't great but I think I'm being too hard of a marker because of the quality of the opposition and the amount of defence we had to do impacted on our attack,'' Elliott said.

"We are scrambling really well in [defence] but there are a whole lot of little things we need to do better and having really high expectations of ourselves is a healthy thing.''

Their only concerns were a painful shin injury to Manu Vatuvei and hamstring strain to Russell Packer, who didn't play, but this side are coping with most things being thrown their way at the moment.

Warriors 18 (Manu Vatuvei, Elijah Taylor, Konrad Hurrell tries; Shaun Johnson 3 gls)
Broncos 16 (Lachlan Maranta, Peter Wallace, Josh Hoffman tries; Scott Prince 2 gls). HT: 12-10.

- APNZ

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