Auckland Nines: We just played custard, Johnson

By Michael Brown

Warriors skipper judged MVP but regretful after local favourites let slip golden opportunity at Auckland Nines.

Glen Fisiiahi of the Warriors spills the ball as his team head to their 8-0 semifinal defeat at the hands of the Cowboys yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker
Glen Fisiiahi of the Warriors spills the ball as his team head to their 8-0 semifinal defeat at the hands of the Cowboys yesterday. Photo / Greg Bowker

It wasn't about the winner's prizemoney for the Warriors, although that would have been nice, but there was a sense they let slip a golden opportunity yes-terday to win both the inaugural Auckland Nines and head into the new NRL season riding a wave of momentum.

They went into the tournament as favourites and lived up to that billing as they romped into the semifinals as the only unbeaten team but were unstuck by the Cowboys, who went on to win the final 16-7 over the Broncos.

That semifinal defeat largely sucked the life out of a tournament that had been humming along up to that point and they were probab-ly starting to win over a few new fans.

The Warriors had been the most lethal team in the tournament up to that point as they attacked with purpose and skill but, inexplicably, went away from what they had been doing well against the Cowboys. They couldn't get themselves into the semifinal and it didn't help they went away from the gameplan.

"We just played custard, it's that simple," Warriors nines captain and tournament MVP Shaun Johnson said. "We didn't do the things we had been doing throughout the tournament. We started off poorly and made silly decisions and I think it set the tone for the whole game."

For new fullback Sam Tomkins, it was an insight into the things that have plagued the Warriors over the years and it's a large part of the reason he has been brought in.

He's acknowledged as highly competitive, someone who can bring a winning edge to teams, and showed glimpses throughout the weekend of what he's capable of.

"It's a long season and I think we learned a few lessons for the league," Tomkins said.

"In big games, you can't go away from gameplans. It was too off-the-cuff and that happens sometimes.

"It hurts. We are not going to say it doesn't matter but we have not just lost a premiership out there. The bigger picture is we want to be in the grand final [of the NRL] and will be doing everything we can."

The good thing is they emerged unscathed, with no major injuries, unlike several clubs who lost players to long-term injuries.

And they will also take some momentum into their opening NRL match against the Eels on March 9 when they will be bolstered by a number of players who sat out the nines tournament.

It's the same for the Cowboys and Broncos, who came into the tournament with low expectations.

"We had one decent training run, playing an opposed game against the players who didn't make our team and they flogged us," Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said.

"We came over here with our tails between our legs," he said.

"It was nice to win a few games and get to the end. The boys are happy with the prizemoney."

The Cowboys won the tournament thanks to their defence. They conceded only one try in their last two games, which included keeping the Warriors scoreless in their semifinal, and adapted well as the tournament progressed.They also enjoyed some fortune - they were the only quarter-finalist to go through with only one win in their pool games.

Road to triumph

Cowboys 8 Warriors 0
Broncos 18 Sharks 14

Cowboys 16 Broncos 7

- NZ Herald

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