Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors own worst enemies

Thomas Leuluai was a constant threat running from dummy half in last night's match. Photo / Getty Images
Thomas Leuluai was a constant threat running from dummy half in last night's match. Photo / Getty Images

Dragons 20
Warriors 10

If it was a painting it'd be something by Dick Frizzell - a frenzy of busy colours.

If it was a song it'd be Blur's Song Two - a cacophony of enthusiastic pace.

A frenetic contest unfolded between two teams determined to put the agony of late losses behind them in the last round.

It was the Warriors' fifth loss of the season and second to the Dragons after going down 20-10 at WIN Jubilee Oval.

The Dragons move to eight points and into the top eight with their fourth win; the Warriors languish on the bottom rungs of the ladder with four points.

The Warriors again suffered for being less accurate than their opposition. Strong, direct running was compromised by a lack of imagination on the fifth tackle, an inability to shut down the Dragons' offloads, and too many missed tackles (21) even if their scrambling cover defence was regularly first-class.

The pressure of defending more saw them contend with a juggernaut towards the end as attrition took its toll. The Warriors made 331 tackles compared to the Dragons' 272.

In contrast, the Dragons were tenacious with possession but their attack was dogged by ineffectual tackle sets, given their dominant yardage. They were helped on defence by the aerial accuracy of Josh Dugan and Brett Morris, leaping to retrieve bombs.

Still, the Dragons kept with form against their Auckland-based counterparts, taking the overall NRL record against them to 18 wins and four losses, including the last 11 at home.

The Warriors used the likes of Jacob Lillyman, Dominique Peyroux and Sebastine Ikahihifo to bend the Dragons' defensive line on the charge while Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Nathan Friend did likewise skirting forth from dummy half.

Manu Vatuvei's bullock down the left flank to score in the corner deserved special mention. It brought the Warriors back into the contest momentarily at 14-10 and proved he's still got the power on occasion. He flattened Dugan in the tackle on the tryline, rekindling memories of a WWF body slam. However, too often the Warriors were let down by dropped passes as part of 11 errors. The Dragons' defence deserved credit for its application of pressure.

The visitors were also remiss with a couple of perpetual motion last tackle kicks which rolled beyond the dead ball line as well as going to the edges ineffectually in the air.

They varied their options in the second half with grubbers and running on the last which kept the Dragons tentative. Sam Tomkins gliding run through four defenders to score was an example of them caught on their heels.

The hosts were incisive through Bronson Harrison, Mike Cooper and Jason Nightingale, the latter two picking up tries. Cooper chose wisely to drive through Tomkins to score next to the posts, the crucial points which gave the Dragons 12-0 momentum on the halftime siren. Nightingale triumphed in the 32nd minute with a somersault towards the line. He had 19 runs in the game and gained 159m.

Former Warrior Michael Witt provided the final thrust when opting to grubber in the 69th minute. It was collected by Mitch Rein who kept the grubber going. Dugan's superb game on defence was rewarded offensively.

The refereeing also deserved credit. A free-flowing contest provided a visual spectacle.

The Warriors continued to look like they had more spark under new coach Andrew McFadden, despite being without the services of Ben Matulino on suspension for a shoulder charge. Friend's 51 tackles were worthy of mention as was the 125m gained by Lillyman who again justified his recent re-signing.

Dragons 20 (J.Nightingale, M.Cooper, J.Dugan tries, G.Widdop 4 goals) Warriors 10 (S.Tomkins, M.Vatuvei tries, S.Johnson goal) Halftime: 12-0.

- Herald on Sunday

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