The New Zealand Warriors have unearthed a good one in James Maloney. In only his third game for the club, he has equalled the points scoring record for a match with a twenty eight point haul that included three tries, seven conversions and for something a little bit different: a penalty goal. For, there certainly isn’t any baloney with Maloney. After a number of seasons struggling to find quality halves, it looks like the hunt is over.
A 48-16 win over the Brisbane Broncos in Brisbane, as great as it was, did have its downside with their celebrations being dampened somewhat with the prospect of losing both Captain Simon Mannering and superstar winger Manu Vatuvei for extended periods due to hamstring injuries.
Other than that, though, there was nothing but positive to come out of the match for the Warriors. If their attacking mojo had gone on vacation last season, then, it certainly has reappeared with a vengeance in 2010. They spent the afternoon offloading with like their lives depended on it. And the Broncos, in the end, had no answer for it. Constantly the Warriors made breaks due to Brisbane being unable to put a stop to the off loading. If we all got a penny for every off-load that occurred in this breathtaking contest, we’d all be mighty rich by now.
It wasn’t just Maloney that starred. Aaron Heremia once again gave a fine display of dummy half running and looks to have cemented the position. What was most impressive, though, was the overall forward effort. Having lost Mannering and Vatuvei within the first thirty-five minutes, they dug deep and each played more minutes than what would normally be the usual, due to being down to a two man interchange bench.
The first ten minutes of the game was of a frenetic nature. It was end to end stuff, but with no result for either side. Until the 9th minute that is, when Maloney kicked a penalty goal to kick-start the scoring frenzy that was about to occur.
Both sides had struggled to find a way over the opposites goal line, but that changed in the 15th minute when the first try finally came after Darren Lockyer put Matt Gillett into a gap ten metres from the Warriors goal line. Gillett off-loaded to Israel Foulau who decided not to take the scenic route, instead preferring to stampede his way to the try line carrying three Warriors defenders with him, as he score twenty wide of the right upright.
The good, the bad and the ugly made its presence felt in the 22nd minute. The good: Simon Mannering scored to put his side back in front. The Bad: he reinjured his troublesome hamstring that he had been battling for much of the pre season. The ugly: it was off to the sideline for him to meet up with an old acquaintance in the form of an ice pack.
Only five minutes later Lance Hohaia went over to score the Warriors second try. As with the previous try, Maloney converts.
So, hey, despite Mannering’s injury, there is a lot to be positive about and a 14-4 lead over Brisbane in Brisbane is not to be scoffed at. Not to mention the fact that The Beast was lurking about waiting to add to his already impressive try scoring tally for the season.
Until the 34th minute that is, when he tore his hamstring in a Brisbane attacking foray into Warriors territory where the Broncos produced what could only be described as a rugby league addict’s wet dream. A length of the field try which started with them spreading the ball wide to their right side attack. Once there, Ben Taeo was put on the outside of his opposite and he raced along the grassy expanses of Suncorp Stadium for fifty metres, before off-loading to Lockyer who was brought down two metres out from the Warriors goal-line. They then immediately went wide to Wallace who put Gilette into space who dived over in the left side corner, to bring his side back to a four point deficit.
Brisbane dominated the rest of the first half, as well as opening the scoring in the second half with a try to Andrew McCullock in the 43rd minute. With the conversion from Peter Wallace, Brisbane led 16-14 and most would have expected them to go on with the job from here on in. But, that was where the fun stopped for them and the despair and misery began.
The Warriors players had a whale of a time though. The 2009 model would not have won this match, but the updated, more finely tuned version is a different beast altogether. Fitter, faster and stronger, they went on a scoring spree that one would have thought only happened in one’s dreams. But, their dreams came true. And, oh, what entertainment it was. A banquet of six tries (it took them six games to score that many last year) and the Warriors fans that turned up were in a state of delirious rapture.
It started in the 46th minute when Jerome Ropati went over for the first try of a double. What started as a simple hit-up by Jeremy Lattimore, turned into an attacking sortie down the left side attack of the Warriors as he off-loaded to Wade McKinnon who sped off along the field for forty metres before passing to Ropati to put the finishing touches on a splendid piece of work by his teammates.
His second came in the 56th minute, but not before Joel Moon helped himself to a piece of the try scoring cake in the 51st minute, after the Warriors got to the fifth tackle. Now, most teams would kick on the last, but this is the Warriors and it certainly would be no fun at all to do something sensible. So, if you’re Lance Hohaia, why not pass to Aaron Heremia on the last, which he did, and if you’re Aaron Heremia, why not run straight up the middle of the park for thirty metres instead of kicking, which he did. Only then did Heremia consider the rather novel notion of kicking on the last. But not one of those boring high kicks, for him. Oh no, he had to put a clever little grubber kick through to Brisbane in-goal on the right side of the field for Moon to scamper through and dive on the ball for a marvellous try.
So, then, good percentage football from the Warriors. Despite the 30-16 lead after Ropati’s second try, Coach Ivan Cleary must have been having heart palpitations with the amount of ad-lib football going on. He must have also wondered if Brisbane would find another gear and mount a comeback. If Brisbane were contemplating a comeback, now would have been a good time to start. But, alas, it was not to be for Brisbane as the Warriors went in for the kill.
And this is where James Maloney made his presence felt. Why score one try when you when can score two, and why only limit yourself to two when you can partake in a hat trick. Maloney certainly didn’t see any need to limit his horizons. His entree arrived in the 63rd minute after Kevin Locke and McKinnon made big metres up the middle of the ruck and offloaded to Maloney to dive over to score under the crossbar. The main course entered the playing arena in the 70th minute, as once again the Warriors made breaks up the middle of the park.
Next up was the desert. Like some of his teammates, Maloney doesn’t always believe in the value of a kick on the last tackle. Much wiser and better to put in a chip kick, chase through, and boot the loose ball ahead, regather the ball and once again score under the crossbar. Simple, really.
This gave the Warriors a 48-16 lead and that is where it stayed.
After having been touted by many as one of the leading contenders for the wooden spoon, while it may still be early days, it seems that the Warriors coaching staff have gone a long way to solving some of last year’s problems. Especially the attack and concerns over the players’ fitness levels. They showed no great difficulty in handling the hot Brisbane day, and this match started at 1pm, not later in the day when the temperatures are on the wane. Both teams played the majority of the match with a two man interchange bench, but, even so, Brisbane would have been expected to be handle the conditions better. In the end though, they did not impact on the outcome of the match.
Their much maligned attack of 2009 seems to have been left there fortunately. While this season, it seems to be a more ad lib style of play, it most definitely is working for them. What is helping more than anything is their constant offloading, which opposing teams are struggling to close down. Hence, the opposition is being worn down physically and opening up gaps in the middle of the park.
And if they keep this up, not only will fifteen other teams have to be on their guard when they come up against the Warriors, the rugby league public are going to be treated to some stunning football.
Not to mention those heart palpitations.