Saturday, August 1, 2009

Moon Shines Brightly as The New Zealand Warriors and Penrith fight out thriller

Joel Moon scored four tries. The New Zealand Warriors blow a twenty-six point lead. Penrith claw back that margin to be 32-all at the end of eighty minutes. And, ten minutes of pulsating entertainment in extra time, that ends in a draw. What more could one hope for?
And so it was. A match where Warriors fans would have been left scratching their heads as to where this attacking form had been for the majority of the season. Penrith supporters, on the other hand, would have spent the first sixty minutes wondering whether their team really wanted to play finals football this year.
Why, too, is it that once the warriors could not make the top eight, they suddenly found their long lost attack? Could it be that now that the pressure valve has been released, they find it easier to take the risks on attack? And, if so, is there a problem with mental toughness there?
A coaching issue looms.
It was a match that The Warriors led 32-6 and should have never lost. For sixty minutes they dominated Penrith in all facets of the game. They did the hard yards up the middle of the ruck initially, and, then, showed their attacking guile. None more so than Joel Moon, who got himself a hat-trick within the first thirty-three minutes. His second being the best of them, as he dived over in the left side corner with very little room to move. The third was the Warriors try of the day. After Manu Vatuvei had busted through the opposing defence, and headed off along the field in search of the meaning of life, he off-loaded to Stacey Jones who joined in the search. Five metres out from Penrith's goal line, the ball came loose and there was Moon to gather the loose ball and dive over under the horizontal bar. The meaning of life, after Kevin Locke had converted, was worth six points, it turns out.
20-6 ahead, which they held to half-time, and it looked like it was going to be their night. Continued too look that way too, for the immediate ten minutes after the break as Moon again crossed for his fourth try, shortly to be followed by Lewis Brown in the 51st minute. With Kevin Locke converting five from five, this gave them a 32-6 lead. Which you would generally consider this to be an unassailable lead. Wisdom would suggest that a team in this position would consolidate their position with some safety first football, concentrating on completing their sets of six. Not helter skelter football. This is The Warriors though. Instead they threw the ball around with gay abandon, with no regard for the end result. And that result came in the form of forced passes that needn't have been. Dropped ball and a failure to complete their sets. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, they certainly can be.
This gave Penrith more possession and the momentum started to shift. First, in the 54th minute when Shane Elford crossed, to give them a glimmer of hope.
Luke Walshe joined in the fun ten minutes later when he stepped neatly past three Warriors defenders to score next to the left upright. At 32-18, and fifteen minutes left on the clock, this is where the Warriors should have got their minds back on the job at hand. Instead, Penrith continued to force the issue to touchdown twice more.
32-30, now, with two and a half minutes left. Not the time to give away a penalty. Unfortunately this was not too be, as Stacey Jones caught Jarrod Sammut with a head high tackle. Michael Gordon stepped up and slotted the penalty for Penrith to level the scores at 32 a piece, and send the match into extra time.
The closest either team came to scoring, was in the 83rd minute when Lance Hohaia attempted a field goal. Not a bad effort, too. But, alas, it was not to be, as the ball struck the horizontal bar and bounced back into the field of play for Penrith to regather.
Numerous other field-goal attempts from both sides failed to find their mark, meaning the two teams played out the third draw of the 2009 NRL season.
With five rounds to go in the regular season, The Warriors have next to no chance of making the top eight, but if they continue to perform as they did for the first sixty minutes, they are going to be of nuisance value to teams trying to gain places five to eight.

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