Round 16 opens with two last-start winners, as the Warriors host the Bulldogs at Mt Smart.
Long-time readers will know that we’ve been off the Warriors for a while, and that we don’t require a lot of prompting to write that the Warriors are rubbish (which reminds us, the Warriors are rubbish). Nonetheless (yes, we may be still drunk on the correct tip of a Warriors win abroad at the Gold Coast), we’re taking another drink from that manky well and backing in the Warriors once again.
The reason for our change in tune has less to do with the Warriors (who, despite improving, are still entirely disappointing), and more to do with their opponents. Quite simply, we don’t believe that the Bulldogs ‘bounced back’ in defeating the Dragons – we believe that both teams put in stodgy, unimaginative performances, and that the Bulldogs just happened to be in front at the end.
Nothing the Bulldogs did that day was vastly different to the 80 minutes of stink that the Bulldogs dished up in each of the weeks prior, which had them in a the midst of a four-game hole. They managed to win the run metres for a change, but that was only with a 57-43 possession advantage (it would be near-impossible to lose it with that much ball). Their attack was just as stale as usual, managing just 2 line breaks, despite a wealth of possession. And here’s a fun fact: in their past three games, the Bulldogs have managed a combined 4 line breaks. By contrast, over the same period, the least number of line breaks made by the Warriors in a single game is 5.
And therein lies the difference. Sure, the Warriors’ defense is woeful. But are the Bulldogs really likely to take advantage of it? They’ve played 14 games this season; they’ve scored more than 3 tries in just 4 (and haven’t done so at all since Round 7). Conversely, the Warriors have done so in 4 of their last 5 alone.
We still won’t feel good about it (it is the Warriors after all – you can never feel good about it). But in the last month, the Warriors have at least shown signs of improvement. We don’t believe the Bulldogs have.