Maddening. Highly entertaining, mind, but maddening all the same. But that’s the New Zealand Warriors for you. One minute they’ll race the length of the field to score a try that only they could. Then from the resulting kick-off, on the first tackle, they will be offloading and turning over possession.
That was pretty much how the match went as they held off a late charging Canterbury-Bankstown side 30-24 in Sydney tonight. It was a match- with Manu Vatuvei a surprise late inclusion- that they should have wrapped up comfortably after gaining a 24-12 lead early in the second half. But the Warriors being the Warriors, they tried to push the passes when it simply was not on. Way more exciting that way, you see.
Despite all this and the utter chaos of end to end attack that marked this match, Warriors coach Ivan Cleary will be pleased that his side has gained the two points away from home despite not being at their best. Not to mention the fact that he is without five of his front line players. Oh, make that six now as Vatuvei lasted forty-five minutes before leaving the field with his hamstring re injured. He never looked comfortable from the beginning and the wisdom of playing a half fit player surely must be questioned. Amazingly, Vatuvei still managed to contribute to his team’s cause with a try and two breaks down his left wing.
However it was Canterbury who made all the early running, through share weight of possession. The match was only three hundred and four seconds old when Brett Kimmorley threw a dummy and scooted five metres to dot down fifteen metres wide of the left upright. With the conversion to winger Bryson Goodwin, all was looking good for Canterbury.
That was until mayhem and havoc entered the fray. Mayhem was on the Warriors right side attack in the form of Brent Tate who scored in the 17th minute after he chased through a grubber kick from James Maloney to touchdown fifteen metres wide of the right upright.
Then along came havoc on the left side attack in the 24th minute as Vatuvei decided to implant his talent on proceedings by finishing off a passing movement to the left and score in the corner. Maloney converted both tries giving the Warriors a 12-6 lead.
The game meandered along for the next fifteen minutes until it was rocked back into life by Canterbury Stand-off Ben Barba. The Warriors had showed solidity on defence for much of the first half, but Barba, having received the ball twenty wide of the upright on his sides left side attack cut back off his left foot to dart past two Warriors defenders to touchdown next to the upright. They don’t call him the x-factor for nothing you know. With Goodwin’s conversion the scores were level at twelve a piece.
If the entertainment value had been of a high calibre in the first half, then just wait until you see what happened after half-time. For it was a smorgasbord of end to end football. Admittedly there were a few mistakes in between the goodly amount of attacking fare on show. That attacking fare was always near too as the Warriors found a decent proportion of it over the first eight minutes of the second half. First in the 45th minute as Maloney rediscovered his attacking game from two weeks ago in Brisbane to slice through the Canterbury defence before offloading to Jacob Lillyman, who ran twenty metres to dot down under the crossbar.
Then just three minutes later Kevin Locke pounced on the loose ball from a Ben Barba knock-on to score. A 24-12 lead with the Warriors looking like they had gained the ascendancy and the game was theirs to finish off. Well it should have been. This is where they would have been expected to play percentage football. Particularly straight after they had scored a four pointer. But a series of turn over’s from the Warriors let Canterbury back into the game. And Canterbury gratefully accepted that invitation back with tries in the 55th and 58th minutes to Luke Patten and teenage star Jamal Idris to level at 24-24.
Canterbury looked to be getting on top of a tiring Warriors outfit over the next ten minutes, but the Warriors playing staff dug deep and held Canterbury out. Slowly but surely they got themselves going forward again and nearly finished the match off when Lewis Brown -now playing in the centre’s- dived for the try line, only to have the ball knocked from his hands by Goodwin in the tackle. They had gone to their left side attack when the more appropriate action would have been to take an attempt at a field goal.
Opportunity lost. It looked like they would rue not taking the field goal two minutes later as Brett Kimmorly lined up for an attempt of his own, only to push it to the right of the right upright.
So with seventy seconds remaining in normal time, do you put safety first and wait until extra time to go for the win or do you steal the show with a 80th minute try? Obviously the Warriors players found the thought of the first option just a tad too boring for their liking after having contemplated this outrageous thought for a millisecond, preferring the much more enticing proposition of a length of the field try to Lance Hohaia to confirm their second away win of the season.