NRL: Warriors need to bottle attitude

By Michael Brown

Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors blows a kiss after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors blows a kiss after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the Warriors won their first game of the season at arguably the toughest venue in the competition.

Throughout history they have often disappointed when expectations build and produce something special when they're written off - and few thought they would beat the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.

That they won 20-16 showed what they can do when they play with the right attitude.

They could have pointed to all the things working against them - heat, humidity, 11pm New Zealand time kickoff, a venue they hadn't won at since 2002 and losing prop Ben Matulino early to a head knock - and used them as excuses.

Instead, they muscled up and showed the sort of intent and aggression sadly missing in their opening two matches this season. They set their stall out early, defended their line belligerently and attacked with patience as they jumped to a 20-6 lead before the Cowboys launched a late comeback that just fell short.

The challenge now is to do it all again on Saturday when they tackle the Wests Tigers in Wellington because consistency has not always been a trait of the Warriors.

"We have to get rid of that tag,'' coach Matt Elliott said. "And the only way to do that is to come out with the sort of intent we displayed on Saturday night.

"You can't play aggressively throughout every match. It's just too hard in this competition. The challenge for us is to be prepared to graft hard, particularly at the beginning of halves.

"You are going to have games that, for whatever reason, you come out flat but that's not a reason to lose. The best teams of the last decade, the Melbournes and Manlys, can play flat and win. It's a matter of sticking to your processes and committing to the things that are most important. I know we are heading in that direction.''

There were many individuals who stood out - Jacob Lillyman (155m, 26 tackles), Simon Mannering (112m, 29 tackles), Konrad Hurrell's impact off the bench playing in the middle and Jayson Bukuya and Shaun Johnson who kept Jason Taumalolo relatively quiet on the Warriors' right edge - but it was the collective effort that impressed the most.

They were accurate (they completed their first 14 sets and had another run of 16 consecutive ones in the second half), patient (six consecutive sets) and often kicked early in the tackle count to play the game at the right end of the park (Johnson kicked for a mammoth 504m).

It got a little nervy towards the end after Glen Fisiiahi dropped a routine bomb to let in a try and the Cowboys came close to snatching a late victory but the Warriors wouldn't bend and it was encapsulated by a desperate try-saving tackle by Sam Tomkins and Manu Vatuvei who somehow managed to hold up Tariq Sims over the line.

The Warriors will face a resurgent Wests Tigers side who upset the Rabbitohs 25-16 on Friday night and have won two of their first three.

Feleti Mateo (knee) is a doubt but Matulino should be fit to play.

- APNZ

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