Sea Eagles 22
If the Warriors' 2020 campaign has proven anything, it's that things don't need to be conventional, they just need to work.
In a week where the headlines were dominated by abrupt departures and coaching roles being knocked back then offered elsewhere, many expected the noise would have been too loud for the playing group to block out.
That notion was put to rest inside the opening 10 minutes of tonight's 26-22 win against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval.
Despite hooker Karl Lawton and prop Jack Hetherington spending time in the sin bin, the Warriors were too good for a wounded Manly outfit. Had the Warriors been at a full complement, the scoreline could have looked one sided, with Manly scoring 16 of their 22 points during the two periods where the Warriors were at a numbers disadvantage.
From the opening play, it was clear the Warriors were unaffected by the goings on at the club as they drove Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans into touch from the opening kick-off. Getting the ball inside the Manly 20m line just seconds into the contest, the Warriors attacked the defensive line and tested Manly – earning a penalty and two set restarts before finally opening the scoring through Patrick Herbert, who got on the end of a well-placed cross-field kick from Kodi Nikorima.
Attacking down the right edge was a clear tactic from the Warriors, targeting Manly wing Jorge Taufua, who has made a habit of rushing out of the defensive line and often finding himself out of position.
After trailing 10-0 early last weekend against the Tigers, it was the reverse for the Warriors against Manly after impressive second-rower Eliesa Katoa crossed following some lovely work from young half Chanel Harris-Tavita. After George Jennings went over, the Warriors had quickly established a 16-0 lead in 16 minutes - completing 12 sets to Manly's four, and clocking up 486 running metres to Manly's 151.
Given the keys to the offence after Blake Green's departure, Harris-Tavita showed he's ready to match it with the best, flashing his running and passing ability as well as his kicking game.
Not to be outdone, five-eighth Nikorima stepped into the senior playmaking role flawlessly, assisting on two of the Warriors' five tries while making the right plays all night.
Manly got on the board twice midway through the first half after Lawton was sinbinned for an early tackle on Jake Trbojevic close to the line, but with Herbert scoring his second on the stroke of halftime, the Warriors held a 10-point halftime lead.
It was a similar story in the second half. The Warriors crossed early – again on Taufua's wing when Peta Hiku grounded a slick grubber from Nikorima.
However, Manly put up a much stronger fight in the second half, limiting the Warriors attack after the Hiku try and applying the pressure by keeping the ball. When Hetherington was sinbinned for a high shot on Martin Taupau, Manly crossed twice more, then Taufua gave them some hope inside the final 15 minutes.
However, the Warriors were able to hang on for a four-point win and move two points closer to the top eight.
Warriors 26 (Patrick Herbert 2, Eliesa Katoa, George Jennings, Peta Hiku tries; Kodi Nikorima con, Chanel Harris-Tavita con, Herbert con)
Manly 22 (Tevita Funa, Moses Suli, Haumole Olakau'atu, Jorge Taufua tries; Reuben Garrick 3 cons)