There has been a right wing conspiracy at Toyota Stadium in Sydney tonight as right wing Bill Tupou scored a hat trick in the New Zealand Warriors 37-10 win over the Cronulla Sharks.
Having not scored a try in his previous nine first grade appearances Tupou emphatically broke his try scoring drought in a breakthrough performance. He scored them all in the space of a twenty-three minute period in the second half to finish off what had been a lively performance from the Sharks.
Even though his side had procured themselves a fourteen point lead over the Sharks, it wasn’t until Tupou’s three try effort, that the Warriors clinched the win. Now his coach Ivan Cleary has been put in the envious position next week, of having to select from Tupou and Kevin Locke, who is returning from injury.
It contributed to a clinical manifestation of error free football from the Warriors. A completion rate of ninety-three percent was phenomenal considering their eagerness to offload the ball at every window of opportunity that arose to them. That they combined this with a proclivity to attack the Sharks up the centre of the ruck meant that they were able to form a lasting relationship with the lead during the match. Not to mention the fact that the fearsome defence of their five match winning streak was back with a vengeance.
Which was fortunate for them as the Sharks displayed an attacking fortitude that certainly did not resemble the classless, lacking in talent bunch that they are so often passed off as.
In fact, it was the Sharks that looked the better of the two sides over the opening exchanges of the contest. They constantly went to the edges in an effort to find space and a way of putting the Warriors out of their comfort zone. That the visitors held Cronulla out with a sterling defensive effort over the first ten minutes was a credit to them.
Not long after, they pounced, when, in the 16th minute, standoff James Maloney spotted an opening for some points scoring entertainment when he put a grubber kick into Cronulla’s in-goal area for Brent Tate to chase through and dive on, hence, opening the scoring.
While the Warriors defence had been superb thus far, it was no match for a penetrating charge through their defences by Sharks fullback Nathan Gardner who blasted his way into Warriors territory before passing on his inside to his captain Trent Barrett, who managed to impel his aging legs forty metres for a try that put his side on level pegging with the Warriors.
At 6-6 the match could have gone either way. As it happens, Aaron Heremia had ideas of his own on how proceedings should take their course. That route involved him running from dummy half in the 32nd minute on a diagonal run towards the Sharks left upright before passing to Maloney on his inside to score under the crossbar. With the conversion and a penalty goal by Maloney on the stroke of half-time, the Warriors were starting to gain the ascendency with a 14-6 lead.
That lead was enlarged in the 47th minute when Joel Moon was awarded a dubious try by video referee Chris Ward. Brett Seymour had put the ball high to Manu Vatuvei’s left wing on the 5th tackle. Though it appeared that Vatuvei had knocked the ball forward, Ward ruled that the “Beast” had not touched the ball and gave the Warriors the benefit of the doubt. After that call, someone should have given Ward the benefit of a doubt.
Cronulla’s resistance came to an end at this stage and prompted the Warriors to rack up a significant score in their search for a positive points differential in the hope that it would enhance their finals hopes. They didn’t quite manage this, but did improve it from negative 29 to negative 2.
And this was where Tupou entered the equation with his heroics. First, in the 51st minute after his accomplices had made the most of a mistake by Gardner and spread the ball wide to Tupou’s wing for him to dive over in the right corner. Maloney was having a fine day with the boot, that’s for sure, converting from the sideline and snatching his fourth goal from four so far in the contest.
Despite their attack looking a little shaky in the first quarter of the fixture, slowly but surely, it was gelling more as the clock progressed. By the 60th minute it was positively humming along as they once again distributed the ball out to Tupou to weave his magic and again make the right corner his own personal domain, as he dived over for his second try.
It got even better for him in the 74th minute as he snatched lost ball away from his namesake Anthony Tupou, then running twenty metres to touchdown ten metres wide of the right upright.
Just to top off a bodacious day’s work, the Warriors, on another attacking raid in the Sharks half, finished off the scoring frenzy with a field goal to Maloney.
Which put an end to an impressive effort on the part of the Warriors. While the Sharks cannot be labelled one of the great teams of our time, the Warriors still put in a complete performance. Their defence was back to its best. The attack showed signs of a more lively pulse than it has for some time. And some injured players of importance are close to being back on the park.
Sam Rapira made a surprise return and next week for the first time in a long time, with Locke and Jerome Ropati back, the Warriors will be at full strength.
This bodes well for them, as they attempt to close in on a top eight spot against Newcastle next week.