The New Zealand Warriors are fast becoming the NRL’s team of the verb. Action aplenty with this lot, there is. Which allowed them for the fifth week in a row to secure a victory, this time over the Melbourne Storm 13-6 at Mt Smart Stadium tonight.
And like last week against Penrith, the Warriors men of action put in another brave defensive effort. This time, though, they had to contend with Melbourne’s heavily powered artillery in the form of Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
Michael Luck was again on a mission to tackle himself to a standstill. But, it wasn’t just him. The whole side were there for each other. On many an occasion, with two already committed to the tackle, a third would come into help his mates finish off the opposing player and put him to the ground. Constantly tiring stuff, but it all helped their side slow the opposition down, allowing the Warriors to set their defensive line again. It’s those extra little efforts that count.
Unlike last week they didn’t have to contend with an out of kilter penalty count. Instead, this time it was some extremely dubious calls from the referees in regards to knock-on’s from the Storm. What was worse was that one of them led to the tackle count being restarted and the Storm’s only try.
Defence in rugby league is said by many to be an attitude. The Warriors were all attitude as they regularly swatted off raids from Melbourne. And the Storm came at them with all they had. Some had thought that the weeks off field dramas over the Doloitte report’s finding on Melbourne’s salary cap rort may affect their performance. Fortunately that wasn’t to be as they turned up with their A-game on hand and proceeded, particularly in the second half, to fire their wide range of attacking options at the Warriors. To their credit, the home side took it all and didn’t panic.
Melbourne tried all their usual tricks, but to no avail. There were the inside passes to Billy Slater from Cronk, chip kicks for Slater from Cronk. They attempted to go wide to give superstar Inglis room to weave his considerable magic. On other occasions they put bombs up that looked to have exploration of the solar system as their ultimate goal.
Whatever they threw at the Warriors, the locals took the medicine and hung tough...again. It didn’t look like it was going to be a battle of two heavy weight teams at the beginning, though. It only took the Warriors fifteen minutes to leap out to a 12-0 lead. After a fourth minute penalty to James Maloney to put his side ahead 2-0, in the ninth minute Maloney had put up a 5th tackle kick which Slater lost control of and Kevin Locke, after regathering, sent the steedon out wide to their left side attack for Manu Vatuvei to dive over in the left corner.
Maloney couldn’t convert, but not to worry, as in the 15th minute the Warriors did score a converted try. This time it was Jerome Ropati who retrieved the loose ball after an Aaron Heremia bomb.
The Warriors, with a twelve point lead, and having had the better of the match thus far, looked to be heading for a comfortable win.
But, this Melbourne outfit weren’t about to give up that easily. They may not be able to accrue competition points for this season, but they sure can have a mighty fine time of ruining other team’s semi-final’s hopes.
Gradually they set about trying this on with the Warriors. With the locals having over sixty percent of possession in the first half, Melbourne set about limiting any added damage the Warriors might pertain to do to the score board.
Down 4-1 in the penalty count after thirty minutes, Melbourne suddenly got two penalties within two minutes. And that is where momentum started to change in their favour. It may have taken them twenty-six minutes, but finally the Warriors defence cracked, allowing Slater to dive over from dummy half to touchdown five metres from the right upright.
With the conversion to Smith, the Warriors had only a six point lead and the game was on tender hooks. However, this Warriors side is made of the right stuff. One in, all in, for this lot. So they set about defending their line with their new found steely determination that hasn’t always been present in this club’s fifteen year history. And it is all they could do. For they did not have copious amounts of possession to thrill the raucous 15,000 strong crowd with attacking grandeur.
Instead they had to patiently wait until the 78th minute to use one of their rare forays into Melbourne’s holy ground to give Maloney an opportunity to slot over a field goal and seal the win. Which he duly executed with the precision and calmness of a seasoned pro, not the twenty match novice that he is.
He furiously pumped his fist as the ball sailed between the uprights, showing just how much it meant to him to help his team win a rugged encounter between two dynamic teams.
A fist pump of someone that was part of an outfit that is in sync with each other in search of a common goal; premiership glory.