Michael Burgess looks at three things we learned from the Warriors win over the Cowboys last night.
1. Winning ugly
Winning ugly can be beautiful.
There wasn't much to like about the second half in Townsville on Friday night, as the Warriors struggled to gain any momentum and compounded that issue with errors or poor decisions.
And when the visitors did manage to occasionally take the intiative, it wasn't long before they began to invite pressure again.
From 18-2 up after 27 minutes, they let the Cowboys back into the match and were fortunate to hang on at times.
But they also showed incredible grit, and a determination not to yield.
They defended six line drop outs, coped with only 42 per cent possession across the match and made significantly more tackles.
North Queensland also ran for 1,804 metres – almost 500 more than the Warriors – but to no avail.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's season for the ages took another twist last night.
He was consistent in a poor team last year, but has taken his play to another level in 2018.
The fullback was superb defensively, constantly in the right place to defuse bombs and threatening grubbers, and helped his team stay cool when the pressure was on.
The 25-year-old, who returned from an ankle injury to take his place in Townsville, also gave a master class on attack.
He was credited with two try assists – helping to put Ken Maumalo and Solomone Kata over the line in the first half – and also scored one of the tries of the season in the 22nd minute.
His solo 70 metre run was a stunner, highlighted by a huge sidestep at full pace to beat Cowboys fullback Michael Morgan.
While Shaun Johnson's clutch field goal – which was his third of the season, the equal top in the NRL – sealed the match – it was the other parts of his kicking game which were even more crucial.
The Warriors were consistently losing the battle in the trenches in the second half, as the Cowboys rolled down the field at will.
The territorial advantage was clear, with only Johnson's long range kicking giving the visitors some respite.
Two well placed kicks, allied with a Issac Luke special from dummy half, helped to get the Warriors through a frantic final 10 minutes in Townsville.
Metres gained from kicks was one of the few categories that the Warriors excelled in on Friday night, reeling off 494 compared with the Cowboys' 340.
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