So near and yet so far away.
That was the story of the day for the New Zealand Warriors as they went down 24-18 to the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park today.
Having dominated the first half with a lead of 18-6 after thirty-eight minutes, they, despite a valiant effort, let in three converted tries over the next forty-two minutes.
For much of the first half they looked by far the better side. Their go- forward, despite being without regular forwards Steve Price, Simon Mannering and Jacob Lillyman, particularly up the middle of the ruck, was excellent. Hooker Aaron Heremia was having a field day running from dummy-half and was their player of the day. The defensive effort was on the whole, solid.
Warriors sides have always been more of a threat when they throw the ball around and it was clear that they have been given a license by Coach Ivan Cleary to do so. And they looked liked scoring regularly because of it.
Which they certainly achieved without too much trouble. Manu “the beast” Vatuvei, unlike some, doesn’t believe gluttony is evil. For “the beast” had a feast in the form of what will be at least two tries this season.
His first try came from a James Maloney bomb on the last tackle. Vatuvei assumed his customary position for such kicks by soaring high over two Titans defenders to pluck the ball out of mid air and dive over to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead. Brett Seymour, who had a perfect day with his kicking boot converted and the Warriors had the start they were looking for.
Vatuvei was up to his usual try scoring tricks again in the 33rd minute with an opportunistic piece of work after he gathered a stray pass that had gone to ground. Having scooped the ball up, he did a 270 degrees turn and strolled twenty metres to score and after the conversion and Kevin Locke having touched down in the 22nd minute, gave the Warriors a 18-6 lead.
They looked to be well on their way to an upset victory, but, the Titans had other ideas. With one minute to play in the first half, Anthony Laffranchi ran through a yawning gap, in what had been good defence up until then, to score and bring the gap back to six after Scott Prince had converted.
It was game-on, but despite having a 15 minute break, both teams played like they had been going for hours. Thus, the first twenty minutes of the second half could only be described by the following: the ball control of both sides was blah blah blah crap blah blah blah. The attack of both teams was blah blah blah bollocks blah blah blah.
Fortunately, things did pick up after this colossal bore of a quarter. Mind you, it was the Titans fortunes that got a major boost. For in the 62nd minute, winger David Meade scored in the corner. With yet another Scott Prince conversion the scores were level at eighteen a piece.
Another try in the 70th minute to Preston Campbell gave the Titans a 24-18 lead. This was enough to get them over the line for a first up, though unconvincing win, despite the momentum changing in favour of the Warriors over the last five minutes. Alas, it was not to be, as they couldn’t take advantage.
For the Warriors, after last season’s melancholy of a performance, things are looking like they may be on the improve. The anticipated problems of not only competing against quality opposition, but, also the heat factor on the Gold Coast, did not come to fruition. The Warriors appeared, despite losing, to have no major problems with the heat. This would suggest that they are a fitter side this season than last.
That, in itself, gives hope that they are headed for an improvement on last season’s fourteenth place.