Sunday, May 3, 2009

Poor Ball Control Costs Warriors

The New Zealand Warriors have cost themselves two competition points against St George today at Wollongong, due to shocking ball retention. On numerous occasions they dropped the ball on the first tackle, handing it straight back to St George. With a unforced error count of 17-7 to the Warriors, the only surprise was that St George managed to win by a mere one point, 12-11.

Both teams crossed each others goal line twice each, but were called back for forward passes on one occasion each and again, once each for knock ons.

While the attack of both sides was not at their best, each team defended stoutly for the full eighty minutes. The Warriors, while not controlling the ball well , like previous weeks, put in a superb kick chase effort to keep them in the match.

The match featured a high number of penalties, ending 9-8 in the Warriors favour. It also once again comprised that most odious of activities, the referees lecture- or more commonly known as the prattle of the dead- on three occasions. Just a thought, but do the referees not get it? One wonders this, as they don't seem to realise that the players take no notice of what they are saying, and use it to reset their defensive line, knowing full well that the threat of the sin bin against them, will not be used.

The Dragons made all the running early on, but it was the Warriors who scored first to go 2-0 up, with a 22nd minute penalty goal to Patrick Ah Van, who came into the side to replace the banished Denam Kemp.

St George countered this in the 26th minute with a penalty goal of their own, following the first of the referees lectures to the Warriors captain, Steve Price, to level the score at 2-2.

Due to all the penalties and dropped ball, neither team could gain any momentum.

It took a piece of opportunistic play by Simon Mannering in the 30th minute to get the Warriors over the St George goal line for the first time. Having regathered the loose ball after Price achieved one of his trademark charge-downs ten metres out from their own goal line, Mannering, finding the St George defence to be somewhat on the anti-social side with sinister intentions, charged off down the field on a seventy metre run. The Dragons Brett Morris gave chase and hauled him in, but Mannering was able to play the ball at speed and found that the company was more to his liking when his teammates joined him to spread the ball wide. Having spread the ball wide quickly, Joel Moon, who had a strong game, drew in two defenders before off-loading to Ah Van, who dived over in the corner.

The conversion missed, but the Warriors regained the lead, 6-2.

The Warriors dominated the last ten minutes of the first half, but the Dragons defence held.

With ten seconds to go in the half, Stacey Jones, twenty out from the St George goal-posts, decides to go for a drop goal and succeeds, to give the Warriors a rather bizarre and peculiar 7-2 scoreline going into half time.

The Dragons, in the first half, suffered injuries to Matt Cooper, Wendel Sailor and Jamie Soward, and it was a surprise to see them able to continue to carry on in the second half. But carry on they did, and without them they may not have got out of this match with the win.

It took until the 58th minute for St George to get over the Warriors line, but score they did, after one of their walking wounded, Jamie Soward, threw a speculator pass that Brett Morris gathered, and he strolled over to touch down twenty metres to the left of the posts. Soward converted to give St George a one point lead, 8-7.

Two minutes later, the Warriors get a relieving penalty in their own twenty and from the ensuing set of six, Jerome Ropati dives over in the corner, taking four defenders with him, to dot down and get his team back in front, 11-8.

An extra defender, Jason Nightingale looked to have led with his foot, to try and prevent Ropati scoring. The NRL have outlawed the practice this year and Nightingale may find himself on holiday for a couple of weeks, if proven to be guilty of a contrary conduct charge.

A further ten minutes along the historical time-line that is life, and Steve Price is penalised for a knee in the tackle, which leads to the third and fortunately last referees lecture.

Having bombed a try two minutes earlier, St George took the tap and spread the ball three wide to Ben Creagh who dived over to score despite the worst intentions of three would-be Warriors tacklers.

Soward missed the conversion attempt, but the Dragons held a one point lead, 12-11.

And this is where the score stayed, despite Stacey Jones having the chance of a drop goal to level the scores with ninety seconds remaining. But, alas not, as Jones knocked on twenty metres out in front of the Dragons posts.

While neither team played to their best, both showed enough, that along with the Brisbane Broncos, they appear to be the most likely teams at this stage to go further at the business end of the season.

Warriors fans can feel safe in the knowledge, that while their teams ball retention was at times appalling, their kick chase and defence was outstanding and even though they are sitting outside the top eight, they are holding their own with the top teams away from home consistently, whereas in the past this did not always happen.

Of the last four matches, the spread has been two or less points on each occasion, and three of these were played in Australia. Despite losing two of these, it appears the bad old days of not being able to perform with the travel are a distant memory.

A charge up the points table in the second half of the season seems imminent.

Once again, Russel Packer continues to give consistently strong performances each week. A notable future beckons for him indeed.

The Warriors have the bye next weekend. This will give them a chance to recharge the batteries before taking on the North Queensland Cowboys at home and starting what they hope will be a charge to the northern most tip of the points table.

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