NZ Herald league writer Michael Burgess casts his eye over the NZ Warriors' performance in a 26-22 loss to Manly last night.
1. Gulf in class still evident
The Warriors have made progress this year, but still have a fair way to go. They should have beaten the Sea Eagles last night, which would have been a massive result, but weren't good enough to take the opportunity.
The Auckland side caught Manly napping at the start, acclerating to a 16-0 lead, but couldn't maintain the advantage, losing 26-22.
It continues a pattern for the Warriors - they have looked good against teams around or below them on the ladder this season, but have struggled to compete with teams in the top four.
They've also had several big first-half performances this year, only to fall away in the second half.
2. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad chimes in.
He's only played six NRL games, but Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is already shaping as the Warriors rookie of the year. The winger scored his third brace of the season last night and has that happy knack of being in the right place at the right time.
The 21-year-old is an instinctive try scorer and came close to stealing the game late last night, a finger tip away from what would have been a match-winning try.
But Nicoll-Klokstad is much more than a finisher - he defends with courage and anticipation, with a couple of impressive spot tackles to shut down Manly overlaps, and is effective from kick returns, using guile and footwork to make headway against much bigger men.
3. Shaun Johnson - close, but no cigar
It's hard to criticise Shaun Johnson's performance last night, as he did just about everything right. The halfback kicked impeccably, forcing several line drop-outs and had a hand in the majority of the Warriors tries.
His conversion from a near impossible angle of Nicoll-Klokstad's second try gave the visitors hope and he was often one of first in the Warriors' kick chase. But he twice took wrong options in the last 10 minutes, with the worst on an open-field break 30 metres from the try-line, that could prove costly in the context of the season.