NZME journalist Michael Burgess lists three things we learned from last night's Warriors loss to the Sharks.
Warriors are gone
The Warriors season is over. If it wasn't apparent before last night's 26-12 loss to the Sharks, it certainly is now. On the evidence of that display, there is no miraculous revival in store over the last five weeks of the NRL season. Friday's night match was meant to be do or die for the home side - with their top eight hopes hanging by a slender thread, but it was the Sharks who showed all the desperation, epitomized by their first try, when Kurt Capewell was first to a Chad Townsend grubber. Confidence is down badly at the Warriors, as several players admitted after the match, a byproduct of four successive defeats. They may bounce back to win one or two games over the rest of this season, but that is surely the best that Warriors fans can hope for.
Matulino will be missed
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It's going to be hard to replace Ben Matulino. Along with Simon Mannering, the veteran prop was the best of the Warriors forwards on the field last night, consistently bending the Shark's defensive line. No one else got close to his impact; Jacob Lillyman tried hard, Sam Lisone displayed the usual mix of sweet and sour and Ligi Sao had a limited impact off the bench. Matulino is heading to the Tigers for a new challenge - and is likely to go well - but there is an overriding impression that the Warriors didn't fight overly hard to keep him in Auckland. They may come to regret that.
Fusitu'a, Kata find form
The late season renaissance of Solomone Kata and David Fusitu'a is one positive to come out of the last few weeks. Kata was again impressive against the Sharks, running for 160 metres and showing pace and anticipation to score his intercept try. After struggling through most of this year, Kata has rediscovered his form since the round 19 clash against the Panthers, with three tries in three games.
Fusitu'a was also solid on Friday night, with several willing runs and some strong takes under the high ball. He is one of only two players to start every match this season, and has become much more consistent as a NRL performer.