Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Horror start sinks Warriors

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors 26
Tigers 34

On this evidence, the Warriors are no better than last season. Of course this is only the first week, but their performance was way, way below the level expected, as they lost 34-26 to the West Tigers, who are supposedly one of the favourites for the wooden spoon.

Their second half comeback from 28-4 down was impressive, but they faltered again with 10 minutes to go when the Tigers were on the ropes.

But how to explain the first half, when the Tigers scored five tries and could have had two or three more? With so much to play for, and the chance to set a marker for the season, the Warriors instead brought back memories of past pain.

As it happened: Warriors v Tigers

Maybe what you saw in the first half was pure complacency; it was certainly one of the worst 40 minute periods in the club's history.

"It's not acceptable to start a game like that," coach Andrew McFadden said.

It also didn't make sense. After all the hype, and not inconsiderable expectation, the Warriors just didn't turn up. It appeared like they felt collectively that just taking the field with their star studded line-up, including seven internationals would be enough; that the Tigers team, missing two or three of their best players, would simply bow down to the Auckland club.

Of course that would never happen in the NRL, but that is seriously how it looked. The Warriors as a team had all the energy and urgency of a sloth, and that is probably being slightly unfair to the tree-dwelling mammal.

It was awful. The Tigers played well, very well, and their young mobile lineup sparked memories of Tim Sheen's 2005 team. But they weren't that good; it was just that the Warriors offered little on attack and couldn't defend. There was no punch through the middle, and it took almost 30 minutes before a Warriors player backed up a runner. All of their backline plays unfolded metres behind the advantage line, as they simply shuffled the ball sideways and hoped a gap would open up.

They were playing like strangers and there was ill discipline, porous defence, big mistakes and little niggly errors.

To top it off, Ben Henry left the field midway through the first half with a suspected season-ending leg injury. A Tigers player fell awkwardly on Henry, playing his first NRL game since a serious knee injury, leaving the second-rower in pain. The initial diagnosis was quadriceps and kneecap damage.

The Warriors made the worst possible start, conceding a try in the sixth minute as Curtis Sironen strolled through a yawning gap and worse was to come as the home side added another four tries before the break.

The Warriors woke up in the second half, as the Tigers became ragged. Simon Mannering went over near the posts off a precise Shaun Johnson pass, and when Johnson and Kata scored within three minutes, the Warriors were favourites for the victory with 11 minutes left and a two-point margin.

But the momentum then swung back the Tigers way, helped by two elementary handling errors from the Warriors which summed up their afternoon.

"We fought back and got ourselves into it," McFadden said. "If it wasn't for a couple of pretty poor errors at the end, we might have been able to sneak home."

Warriors 26 (S Kata 2, S Mannering, B Thompson, S Johnson tries T Lolohea 3 goals)
Tigers 34 (C Sironen, K Lovett, D Nofoaluma, J Tedesco 2, T Simona tries M. Moses 5 goals)

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