Warriors v Cowboys: Promising signs as Warriors claim brilliant NRL ...
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18 Mar, 2023 08:40 AM4 mins to read
Jazz Tevaga of the Warriors celebrates his try with Dylan Walker. Photo / Photosport
When have you seen the Warriors play like this?
Definitely not any time last year – and probably not in 2021. You would have to go back to 2020 to match this kind of effort, with the dominant 26-12 victory over the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.
Against a high-level NRL team – who were one game from the grand final last year – this was a red-letter day for the Warriors.
After trailing 12-6 in the 13th minute, they scored 20 unanswered points in a remarkable turnaround.
It’s only week three, but this was a compelling all-round performance. The intensity and scramble on defence was superb, their completion high, while their attack was sharp and dynamic, with structure and angles and offloads and line breaks.
The result is also significant, ending a 13-match losing streak across the Tasman, dating back to the golden-point win over the Raiders in Redcliffe in April last year.
The Warriors scored five tries – and could have had a couple more – while the Cowboys relied on kicks for their two.
The forwards were immense, with Tohu Harris, Addin Fonua-Blake and Wayde Egan outstanding. But there wasn’t a poor performer in the ultimate team performance. Shaun Johnson was in everything – in probably his best display since his return, while halves partner Te Maire Martin showed his worth.
The bench impact was profound and rookie fullback Taine Tuaupiki had a debut to remember, constantly where he needed to be.
It’s the kind of match that sets a platform for the 2023 campaign and will be a template for coach Andrew Webster.
The Warriors made another unfortunate start, with Cowboys fullback Tom Chester crossing in the fourth minute. Chad Townsend’s grubber bounced off the uprights, before two defenders got in each other’s way, allowing Chester to pounce.
After the Cowboys dominated the early stanza, the Warriors struck back with an eye catching try to Egan. It was made by Fonua-Blake – powering off a clever Harris pass – before Egan did well to twist and force the ball under pressure.
But that was stalled by a poor concession, as the Cowboys reacted quickest after contesting a bomb, with Reece Robson strolling under the posts.
That was the signal for the Warriors to lift. They scrambled well to shut down a long-range break – with Egan making an important tackle – followed by a succession of sets in the right area. There were a couple of missed opportunities, before Marcelo Montoya crossed out wide, with smart work from Martin, after Johnson had dragged in several defenders.
The halfback was key to the next try, with a perfect ball to release Dylan Walker, who sent Jazz Tevaga over.
The Warriors repelled early pressure after the break, before a moment of individual brilliance from Adam Pompey created their fourth try. The centre steamrolled Valentine Holmes, then managed a remarkable offload to his winger, despite three defenders hanging off him.
The visitors were on a roll, with Bayley Sironen stopped a metre short. They turned down two kickable penalties, before a Martin cut-out pass sent Montoya over, with the winger finishing well with no room to move.
The Cowboys tried to rally but the Warriors held firm, highlighted by a stunning sequence of defensive plays, with Johnson, Pompey and Tuaupiki all coming up with vital try-saving tackles. The last 25 minutes was impressive game management, as the Warriors pinned the Cowboys in their own territory, restricting any opportunities.
The only concern will be the loss of Egan to a late concussion, while Mitch Barnett also didn’t return after a second half crusher tackle.
Warriors 26 (Marcelo Montoya 2, Wayde Egan, Jazz Tevaga, Edward Kosi tries; Shaun Johnson 3 cons)
Cowboys 12 (Tom Chester, Reece Robson tries; Valentine Holmes 2 cons)
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