Opportunities don’t always come along as regularly as some would like. So when they do it pays to take them as the New Zealand Warriors found out this evening in their 19-16 loss to Manly at Brookvale Oval tonight.
With the score tied at sixteen-all with fifteen minutes left to play, the Warriors had chances to attempt a field goal on two occasions. Instead they opted to go for the try each time. It was to no avail though, as they botched their efforts. On one such occasion, Joel Moon attempted to offload on the second tackle, only to lose the ball forward. Not the percentage play, especially when a field goal was begging to be kicked. In the end it was two competition points that got away from them.
In a tight match where points were at a premium the obvious option was to consolidate their position with a one pointer and force Manly to play catch up football. At least most would have thought so. Instead, they now have left themselves in a position of having to secure one more win to clinch a finals berth, thus ensuring that next Friday’s game against Brisbane takes on added significance in their eager search for some fulfilling September football action.
It’s not that the Warriors played badly. On the contrary, there were plenty of positives to come out of the match for the visitors. Their forwards created some admirable go forward. The kicking game was nothing but fantastic. And even though they did not win, they continue to play well away from home. In the past this has been one of the major concerns for the club.
While they did have a slow start, after twenty minutes they began to forge ahead and gradually push back the enemy forces. There was the odd grenade lobbed in their direction by Manly which put some minor dents in their armoury, but in the 23rd minute the Warriors decided to raid, plunder and generally run amok. On the 5th tackle James Maloney put up a mistimed bomb which Manly failed to clean up leaving the steeden available for Bill Tupou to pillage from his opposite number and offload to Captain Simon Mannering who passed on the inside for Maloney to navigate his way through the Manly defensive line to dot down and give his side an 8-6 lead after the conversion.
Manly attempted a fight back to regain lost territory with some surges up the middle of the ruck over the next five minutes. Anthony Watmough in particular was making impressive darting sorties with the Warriors defensive units having trouble containing him.
This led to a try to Tony Williams in the 29th minute in the right corner after Manly had gone wide and Glenn Stewart threw a superb one handed pass to Williams. At 10-8, Manly must have thought that they had repelled the Warriors forward movement and severed the visitor’s ties with any form of momentum.
But, it was not to be as the Warriors regained the initiative with a four pointer to Mannering.
Goodbyes can be difficult for many people. Not Mannering, though, who without a moment's hesitation bid a rather hostile adieu to Stewart with a fine fend and headed towards the prosperity that is the opposing side’s in-goal area, all the while treating some of the local inhabitants with the absolute disdain usually attributed to the more repugnant elements of society as he charged straight through their lightly built fortifications to touchdown next to the left upright.
With the conversion to Maloney, the Warriors had a four point lead going into the break. This they increased to six in the 44th minute with a penalty goal to Maloney.
Even though the Warriors were the more dominant of the two sides for much of the second half, they couldn’t translate this into extra points. They looked to be dominating on several fronts. They were making ground up the middle of the ruck with relative ease. Defence, on the whole, was desperate and at times, brutal. The kicking game of Maloney was brilliant. And then there were the aforementioned windows of possibility for the winning the contest. Yet they could not crack Manly, try as they might.
Instead it was the home side that were responsible for accumulating the majority of points in the second half. First in the 47th minute when "T-Rex" Tony Williams went over for try number two of his individual tally, then with four minutes to go, standoff Trent Hodginson slotted a field goal to prise two valuable competition points away from the Warriors.
To add salt to the Warriors wounds, Manly captain Jamie Lyon kicked a last minute penalty goal to give his side a three point win.
The Manly faithful were in raptures, however, the Warriors players must have been left wondering what could have been.