General Warriors down - but not clueless


From the NZ Herald

League: Warriors down - but not clueless

By Peter Jessup

Lack of ball security cost the Warriors any chance of a win against Melbourne at Ericsson Stadium yesterday but they didn't look like the clueless wanderers of last season.

A familiar story: another close loss, just a converted try separating the teams with the Warriors blowing several chances.

There was a gradual improvement in their play, except for five minutes of the second half. They threatened the Storm line and it looks as though further experience will improve combinations.

That easing off between the 54th and 59th minutes allowed Melbourne two tries, upped their confidence and gave them a lead that was not headed.

Coach Ivan Cleary blamed a lack of execution at crucial moments. Crucially, he was not swinging too far left or right as has been the tendency with previous Warriors coaches, calmly analysing what went wrong and what had to be done to fix things.

He wasn't contemplating team changes ahead of their second game against the Eels in Hamilton next Saturday. "I don't think there was anyone who didn't play today who would have made any difference."

The qualities he saw would last, he said, while the errors made were a short-term thing - fixable.

Of concern is five-eighth Sione Faumuina's tendency to high shots, a hit that stunned Ryan Hoffman and sent him from the field, earning a report to the judiciary. Faumuina looked like he was trying too hard to organise a break yesterday and when he did he lacked support.

New halfback Nathan Fien took time to feel his way in, his kicking game non-threatening in the first half but improving to deliver their second try when Wairangi Koopu pounced on a loose ball.

The Warriors forwards made more ground than did the Storm pack. They kept the Storm backs out of the game for long periods with good defence. But it was out wide where most of the damage was done. Rookie centre Greg Inglis showed class to take the ball from a scrum on the Storm 20-metre line, hold off Warriors' right wing Tony Martin and out-pace Brent Webb for try one after eight minutes.

Quick hands put wing Matt Geyer over at 25 minutes, Inglis missing both conversion attempts from wide out for an 8-0 score at the break.

It might have been closer. The Warriors were pressing for a try when Storm five-eighth Scott Hill went down injured by their posts and a trainer ran on, interrupting play and forcing ref Steve Clark to halt proceedings and the Warriors' momentum.

Slowing play was a tactic they used in the second half too, as the Warriors earned repeat sets of six from goal-line drop-outs.

Home team captain Steve Price had no complaints, admitting he might use similar tactics when required.

The Warriors opened the second half with speed and Martin got the ball down in the corner after two minutes, but video ref Phil Cooley correctly ruled his foot had touched the line as the ball was planted.

But two minutes later Jerome Ropati scored after an interchange between Faumuina and Webb, then Koopu scored two minutes after that and with Martin's conversion they led 10-8.

At 55 minutes, sleep set in and Storm hooker Cameron Smith was allowed to run straight through their middle from dummy-half and 10 metres out. In the 58th minute Geyer went in at the left corner again, Martin caught out again.

Afterwards, Storm coach Craig Bellamy agreed they had targeted the Warriors' right side, not just because Martin lacked the pace of your classic winger.

"We wanted to go that side more, it wasn't just Tony Martin, I thought that with their structure on that side there were some opportunities."

The Warriors gave fans hope when Webb spotted a big hole down the Storm right side and dropped a clever kick for Manu Vatuvei to pounce on. But minutes later the Storm replied through bench man Steve Turner and, as the game wound down, the home team played their traditional catch-up style and the last possessions were frittered away. It was a tough game and Price said he was happy with 80 per cent of their play. Cleary declared himself happy with the effort.

It's fair that they blame rust and new, untried combinations this time. But these close games at home have to be won if they are to avoid their season turning into a pointless and demoralising meander.

* Former Storm and Kiwi second rower Matt Rua is resurrecting his career, signing with the new Waitakere Rangers outfit in the Bartercard Cup.

There is no indication he wants to press back into the NRL and it would be hard for him to do so with the Warriors, given their salary cap spending is at the outer limit.

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