Warriors 48 Broncos 4
The Warriors don't always cope well with expectations but it's something they will have to come to grips with heading into the new NRL season after dismantling the Broncos in their final pre-season match in Dunedin today.
Not only did they score nine tries, some of them excellent, but they also conceded only one and kept a strong Brisbane side scoreless for the final 67 minutes of the match. Being tough on defence is not something naturally associated with the Warriors but it's vital if they are to succeed this season.
"The four in the scoreline is what pleased me the most,'' coach Matt Elliott said. "We had a lot of commitment to defence. It's something we want to do a better job of.''
Last year they conceded 554 points at an average of 23 points a game, which was the fourth-worst in the NRL. They will need to improve that by at least 100 points this season if they are to make the playoffs and were well organised and aggressive against Brisbane.
They also executed well on attack as they got plenty of players in motion and looked to shift the ball quickly. The combination developing between Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins looks extremely promising, and Tomkins adds another last-play option, but Chad Townsend also impressed.
The former Cronulla five-eighth doesn't overplay his hand, leaving the frills to the likes of Johnson and Tomkins, but gives the side direction and solidity on both attack and defence.
It takes pressure off trying to rush Thomas Leuluai back too soon from his groin injury but, if Townsend continues his form, will give Elliott some headaches around selections.
Elliott had signalled he was putting considerable weight on today's pre-season game as he ponders his side to face the Eels on March 9 and the performance against the Broncos probably did little more than cloud the picture.
"When you consider we had Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Henry, Thomas Leuluai and Ngani Laumape missing, the competition for spots is on,'' he said. "The players basically said today they want to be in the team.
"The 17 players who start round one are guys who played well in this trial. I'm not going to go much on reputation. There were a couple of guys who stuck their hand up pretty hard today.''
The Warriors led 22-4 at halftime on the back of tries to Johnson, Charlie Gubb and a double to Glen Fisiiahi. The Broncos enjoyed a better period immediately after halftime but the Warriors took over from the time Carlos Tuimavave dotted down in the 48th minute and by the end were almost scoring at will as Brisbane tired badly.
"We are happy with what we got out of that trial but we are far from satisfied if we are to be the best team we can be,'' Elliott said. "There were some aspects of our defence that we got a little bit lucky. On attack we really need to be a little bit more incisive.
"I don't want to sound like I am hosing it down but sometimes scorelines like that can be a distraction and I have been around footy long enough to know that teams that win by large margins one week don't often win the next game.''
And that next one is pretty important if the Warriors are to have a good season.
Warriors 48 (Glen Fisiiahi 2, Konrad Hurrell 2, Shaun Johnson, Charlie Gubb, Carlos Tuimavave, David Fusitua, Sam Tomkins tries; Johnson 4 goals, Chad Townsend 2 goals), Broncos 4 (Jack Reed try). HT: 22-4.