Critics used to say that the New Zealand Warriors couldn’t win away from home. They were only any good at Mt Smart Stadium, they claimed.
Well it seems there has been some role reversal taking place as the Warriors have won their last two matches in Australia, but today have lost their second match of the season at home to the Penrith Panthers 40-12 in a dismal display.
Is it really taking that much out of them winning away from home that they cannot back up the next week on home soil? Surely not. Or are the displays against Brisbane and Canterbury-Bankstown, where they are throwing the ball around at will- and getting away with it- making them complacent? That they thought they could simply just turn up and the result would happen automatically.
You could certainly be forgiven for wondering when normally aggressive runners such as Sam Rapira were constantly passing several metres in front of the defence. Lateral running seemed to be the order of the day.
On the flipside of this, Penrith, led by a storming display by Captain Petro Cirninoceva, went through the middle of the Warriors ruck with good effect. The result of this hard toil was a seven tries to two slaughtering of the home side. Penrith look to be a side that are more than capable of playing finals football in 2010.
A week ago the same sentiment could have been applied to the Warriors. But they do not look capable of backing up from a sublime effort one week with more of the same the next, or even a solid performance the next. With the exception of the first ten minutes of the second half, they looked flat for the other seventy minutes. It only took two minutes for Ben Matulino to knock-on in his own half. Penrith capitalised virtually straight away with a try to Adrian Purtell who regathered the ball from a bomb, to score out wide.
Another two tries came from last tackle kicks in the first half from Luke Walshe. For the majority of the match Warriors players stood back and let Walshe have his way with the game. And they suffered the consequences, too.
By half-time Penrith were ahead 22-0 and there looked to be no way back for the Warriors. Ultimately, this proved to be the case. But they did give the 17,000 fans that turned up some hope in the first ten minutes after the break.
First a try to second rower Ukuma Tai’a in the 45th minute, then Brent Tate crossed five minutes later. With two conversions to James Maloney, the margin was down to ten and it appeared that the Warriors were in with a strong chance.
Unfortunately for Coach Ivan Cleary, his charges reverted back to their old ways, letting Penrith in for a further three tries.
It’s not that Penrith weren’t good. They were. They made good metres up the middle of the ruck, completed their sets, put good kicks in on the last tackle and their kick-chase was superb all day. They did everything required of them.
But, the Warriors could have made it harder for them. They were a rabble for most of the match.
On the positive side, they can only get better.