NRL: Heartbreak continues for Warriors

By Michael Brown

Tony Williams of the Bulldogs looks for a way past Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors during the round 6 NRL match between the Warriors and the Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images.
Tony Williams of the Bulldogs looks for a way past Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors during the round 6 NRL match between the Warriors and the Bulldogs. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 20
Bulldogs 21

The Warriors didn't handle the events of the past seven days particularly well as an organisation and it was execution which let the team down as well in an agonising defeat to the Bulldogs today.

The Bulldogs snatched a dramatic, late win when halfback Trent Hodkinson landed a field goal with less than two minutes on the clock. It was the first time the visitors enjoyed a lead throughout the match but it mattered little to them because it was the most important time.

The Warriors had chances to win the match, and Thomas Leuluai sliced a field goal attempt before Hodkinson landed his, but it was silly errors which hurt them the most.

Sam Tomkins' slip over the sideline as he retrieved a grubber and Manu Vatuvei's costly spill of a bomb when under no pressure were the most obvious but there were plenty more. Players lost the ball in the tackle, others kicked early in the tackle count when hot on attack and some gave away soft penalties at inopportune moments.

They made 15 errors in all - the Bulldogs made eight - and finished with a completion rate of just 65 per cent. The Bulldogs completed 80 per cent of their sets.

"I think the players threw everything they could at it but, ultimately, we let ourselves down in our execution,'' interim coach Andrew McFadden said. "We only had to make one less mistake and we probably would have got there.''

They nearly got there because of their effort and application, and that must be the minimum standard each week. They have done it three times this season, for two wins and a narrow defeat, but the three dreadful losses cost Matt Elliott his job and the club some of their credibility for the way some involved handled the week.

The Warriors looked sharp in the first 30 minutes of the match. There was plenty of intent in what they did, especially on defence, and they jumped out to a 10-0 lead through tries to Tomkins and Vatuvei.

Both came after terrific offloads from Ben Matulino, who started in the second-row in the absence of Jayson Bukuya, and he seemed to enjoy the greater space and freedom to get his hands clear.

He missed the entire second half, however, with a painful rib cartilage injury and they also lost back-rower Sebastine Ikahihifo (concussion) meaning they had to play more than half a game with only two interchange forwards. It contributed to the Warriors' raggedness and Saliva Havili, normally a hooker, made his NRL debut playing in the back-row.

The effort will have pleased most fans and it was a good response after such a difficult week but the Bulldogs, who have now won three in a row, were just a little more polished.

"I have a pretty clear thought in my head around where we need to go,'' McFadden said. "This week was just one step in that direction. Although the result is very disappointing, there were certainly a lot of things in that game you have to like. It's just a start for us.''

They face a stiff challenge again on Saturday when they travel to take on the Dragons, a team they have historically struggled the most against.

It's bound to be a lot more settled week than the last seven days. And that can only be a good thing.

Warriors 20 (Sam Tomkins, Manu Vatuvei, Konrad Hurrell, Simon Mannering tries; Shaun Johnson 2 gls) Bulldogs 21 (Sam Perrett, Tony Williams, Tim Lafai tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 gls, fg). HT: 10-6.


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