It is often said that the greatest commodity one can possess in rugby league is speed. But what about courage? Doesn’t harm, does it. Better still, if one was to unite the two; good things could come of it, surely.
Kevin Locke is one such person that possesses these qualities, of which he displayed at AMI stadium in Christchurch today. Having already scored two tries for his side in the first half against the Sydney Roosters and with the New Zealand Warriors trailing 18-14 with eighty seconds remaining in the match, he toed the ball ahead from halfway and scampered off after it. His speed was there for all to see as he outran his opponents. Not only that, he then displayed tremendous courage to dive on the ball and score the match equalling try. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Not so on this occasion as the ball was right next to the upright. To force the ball, he gave no thought to self preservation as he smashed into the right upright as he scored the sensational 79th minute try.
As he was taken from the field on a stretcher while receiving a rousing reception from 20721 delirious fans, all that was left now was for James Maloney to slot the conversion for a miraculous 20-18 win. Which, he duly did.
How the Warriors managed to conjure up the victory, most would still be trying to ascertain. They were on the back foot for the majority of the eighty minutes and looked to be struggling against a bigger Roosters forward pack. The Roosters were making headway up the middle of the park with relative ease, despite a determined effort from the Warriors, not to mention atrocious conditions that should have made ball handling a nightmare. But they managed it with aplomb.
In fact both sides gave a magnificent display of error free football which was a credit to them. You could even be forgiven for thinking the Roosters didn’t realise that it was wet, as they continually offloaded in the tackle. When they weren’t busy doing that, they would be putting in chip kicks or spreading the ball wide to try and outflank the Warriors defence. Which they managed to do on numerous occasions as the Warriors were playing with a tightly compressed defence.
With undesirable weather conditions, this was always going to be a tight affair. And Locke’s first try, which was dubious at best, was the decider. Having chased a last tackle kick through from Maloney, Locke was deemed to have forced the ball a just inside of the dead ball line. It was a contentious call from the video referee and in the end was the difference. Sydney City could rightly feel aggrieved with the decision.
For the Warriors though, it kept them in the match as the Roosters proceeded to take the lead with two tries, one in the 19th minute to Mitchell Pearce, followed not long after with the second in the 22nd minute to Todd Carney.
With a 12-4 lead and looking the more fluent of the two sides the Warriors had to hang on and hope to stay close enough to use the wind advantage in the second stanza. It was Locke, again, that achieved this when he dived over in the right corner in the 36th minute.
To be only four points down at half-time was a mighty effort, for they had had far less possession than the Roosters. Even with the wind behind them in the second half, things didn’t improve for the Warriors. It was the Roosters that were acquiring the right go forward to enhance their chances, not the Warriors.
And the Roosters capitalised on their territorial advantage with a try to centre Shaun Kenny-Dowell in the 64th minute. With the conversion from Carney, they had procured themselves a ten point lead. Having dominated the game thus far and with the awful conditions it seemed the Roosters were about to head off across the Tasman with two competition points safely tucked away.
Which just goes to show that you should never count your chickens before they hatch. This Manu Vatuvei would surely agree with, as he held designs on getting his team back into the contest. And in the 74th minute the Vatuvei and the Warriors came to life as he barged his way across the chalk to dot down in the left corner. This brought them to within six of the Roosters, so the conversion from the sideline was going to be crucial if the Warriors were going to pull off a win in the remaining three hundred seconds. It was never in doubt though, as Maloney nailed the kick from the sideline. It was a fine goal, that’s to be sure.
All that was left now was for Locke to produce his heroics. He may well have given himself a stay in a hospital ward for a night.
Not that he will be too perturbed as he has also kept the New Zealand Warriors right in the hunt for a top eight spot.