After a few low weeks, Aotearoa Warriors grabbed a 26-10 win over Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart to bounce back into the positive vibes. 'Get their season back on track' feels a bit dramatic, over the top and not in tune with the reality as we are definitely going to have more multi-game stretches of losses from the Warriors as they suss things out. The ability to win games that they really should win, after a couple of losses though is a solid sign that we are still dealing with a top-eight team.
There isn't a whole lot to digest from the win over Gold Coast. This was simply a 'job doing' win and to be honest, I'd rather absorb one of those type of wins right now that fly back up to the peak via a sublime performance. Snatch 2 points, ease Chanel Harris-Tavita into some NRL footy and gain some confidence after a rough patch.
Harris-Tavita played his role, just as Adam Keighran played his role nicely in that first up win over Bulldogs. Whether it's his defence, running ability, nice signs with his distribution or his left boot, given that we have a blatant and recent example of being patient in judgements with Keighran, coming to conclusions about Harris-Tavita now is silly. Let's wait to see how Harris-Tavita performs against better opposition, with more dynamic plans to target him.
Same with Karl Lawton, because the reality is that Lawton probably isn't going to feature in a top-17. With some nifty scoots (2 dummy half runs/32m, Lawton showcased how important the threat out of dummy half is and along with Jazz Tevaga having 4 dummy half runs for 47m, that's 6 dummy half runs for well over 10m/run. Against a team that has zero control over the ruck, that tore the Titans apart and is a blueprint for Warriors success; likely via Issac Luke though.
Otherwise, the Warriors have the ability to look pretty good against weaker teams and much of this performance from the Warriors reflects this. While it's easy for me to come out after losses and tell youz to chill, absorb the waves of a long season etc, after a win like this over the Titans (0-4), it's exactly the same message.
What I do want to highlight is the rather crazy effort of Ligi Sao, who deserves a better crack of NRL footy. Sao played 7 minutes for the Warriors on Friday night, with a nice 3run/33m effort and while no one knows why coach Stephen Kearney neglects giving Sao a decent run, you can't fault how Sao dealt with playing reserve grade on Saturday.
Sao then played 70mins in Canterbury Cup with 22runs/223m, 92 post-contact-metres, 7 tackle busts, 2 offloads and 35 tackles. That's the type of performance that you want from someone sniffing around the NRL team and to do so after playing NRL footy the night before - albeit 7mins - is an impressive sign of the level of competition for top-17 spots.
As far as overall Warriors stats go, here's some that caught my eye...
Set Completion: 3rd (80%)
Post Contact Metres: 4th (1,865m)
Tackle Busts: 3rd (132m)
Offloads: 2nd (52)
Dummy Half Runs: 15th (25) ... needs to be a lot more.
Missed Tackles: 7th (128)
Errors: 15th (36)
Penalties Conceded: 6th (26)
Having a team 2nd in offloads and 15th in errors is kinda bonkers; the Warriors offload with few errors. Combine that with reasonably strong running stats and there's a blueprint for a durable foundation of footy, that can have attacking developments sprinkled on top. We are most likely set for a few more selection moves this week, further evidence that we are going with the flow and a long way from truly understanding this Warriors team.
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Peace and love 27.