NRL: Losing mood despite Warriors win

By David Skipwith

Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors looks to beat the tackle of Andrew Fifita, right, and Tupou Sopoaga of the Sharks. Photo / Simon Watts / Getty Images
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors looks to beat the tackle of Andrew Fifita, right, and Tupou Sopoaga of the Sharks. Photo / Simon Watts / Getty Images

Despite escaping with a narrow 16-12 win over the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday, the Warriors changing sheds had the mood of a losing team about it.

It wasn't quite doom and gloom but none of the players were smiling following a sloppy and error-ridden second-half that saw them held scoreless by the side wallowing at the bottom of the NRL ladder.

"Yeah we're pretty disappointed with how we played today but two points is two points and we've just got to be happy with that," said winger Manu Vatuvei.

"Just a few little errors here and there [let us down]. Our defence was pretty good but our attack was pretty average. We'll go back to the drawing board and start all over again for next week against the Knights."

Vatuvei's disappointment belied an outstanding individual performance in which he led the way for his team, scoring a vital first-half try and making 19 runs for a game high 212 metres.

He outshone the entire starting forward pack, along with centre-turned winger Ngani Laumape (17 runs for 180 metres), while prop Jacob Lillyman (17 runs for 155 metres) was the best of the middle men, despite playing with an ankle injury sustained in last week's win over Canberra.

"I thought Manu was outstanding for us," said halfback Thomas Leuluai. "The work he does for this team sometimes goes unnoticed and I think without him today I'm not sure we would have got the two points to be honest."

Leuluai was critical of his side's execution and their inability to lock up the Sharks big ball-carriers, with the likes of Chris Heighington, Matt Prior and Andrew Fifita - who epitomised the visitors never-say-die attitude by playing on with a badly broken arm -constantly offloading to keep the Warriors defence on the back foot.

"We pushed the pass in the second-half and I was guilty of that and I'm pretty angry with myself for that. And defensively they got too many offloads away which made us have to work harder which took a lot of juice out of us and we had to really hang on towards the end. We made silly errors today and some of them, you can't really practice to nullify them, it's just individuals have to make sure they make their plays."

Warriors interchange prop Ben Matulino was another strong contributor (14 runs for 112 metres), but was only interested in praising Lillyman and the man they call 'The Beast', while he also agreed that the result was bittersweet.

"He [Lillyman] was one of the main reasons why we got over the line today alongside Manu. They really set the platform and gave us go-forward and they played awesome today," he said.

"It was pretty ugly. Personally, I thought we lost the game. It wasn't as good a performance as we thought it would be but we've got to win those games if we're going to make the playoffs."

With just four rounds remaining, the win leaves the Warriors in sixth position and well-placed to make a challenge for a top four berth. With six teams between fourth and ninth all locked together on 26 competition points, points differential is likely to determine which teams make the top eight and who misses out.

Metre-eaters


Manu Vatuvei: 19 runs for 212m, one try, seven tackle-breaks, one line break
Ngani Laumape: 17 runs for 180m, two tries, three tackle-breaks
Jacob Lillyman: 17 runs for 155m, one tackle-breaks
Ben Matulino: 14 runs for 112m, three offloads
Sam Tomkins: 12 runs for 96m, three tackle-breaks, one offload

- NZ Herald

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