Three things we learned from the Warriors' 26-18 win over the Dragons on Saturday night in Brisbane.
Bench burns Dragons
The Warriors finally turned a weakness into a strength. The impact of their interchange was telling against the Dragons, helping to turn the contest in their favour.
It hasn't been the case in several other matches this year, where either the balance hasn't quite been right, or the quartet haven't been utilised effectively by the coaching staff. That all changed yesterday.
Bunty Afoa and Jazz Tevaga provided vital energy and momentum when they appeared in the first half, with Tevaga's sharp bursts around the ruck troubling the Warriors. Ligi Sao was a revelation – in just his second appearance of the year – with his aggression and some timely offloads while back up hooker Karl Lawton made 92 metres from five runs, as he found space through the middle of the Dragons.
Herbert and Hiku stand tall
For the second time in three weeks, Patrick Herbert showed his mentality to compete at this level. It was only his third NRL match, but you wouldn't have known.
After an impressive debut against the Storm two weeks ago, Herbert delivered again. He ran with purpose, defended strongly and handled the goal kicking responsibilities well. His pass to send David Fusitu'a across for the Warriors' third try was a thing of beauty – timed to perfection as the Dragons line rushed up. The 22-year-old also delivered the booming goal line drop out to halfway that Ben Hunt spilt in the 69th minute.
On the other edge Hiku was outstanding, putting in one of those virtuoso performances he is capable of. With two tries, two line breaks and a try assist for Ken Maumalo, he could do no wrong and his sleight of hand and deception for his first try was football intelligence at its highest.
You have to feel sorry for Ben Hunt. Back at Suncorp Stadium – where he is not the most popular bloke after his big money move to the Dragons last year – the Queensland Origin player made a crucial error in the 69th minute, spilling a Warriors goal line drop cold on halfway.
Comparisons were immediately being made with his infamous drop in extra time of the 2015 grand final and Hunt's rueful smile at the time said it all.
It was unfortunate, as his kicking game had been superb up until then, and was the difference between the two sides in the first half.
But the match will be remembered by Dragons fans for that moment, and coach Paul McGregor didn't shy away, admitting it was a major turning point.
"The score was 18-all, 12 minutes to go, we had an attacking set on their line," McGregor said.
"It was a pretty important catch. Obviously [Hunt] holds on to things.
"He cares a lot."