Well, I wanted a 'do whatever, just win the game' type of effort from Aotearoa Warriors and that's exactly what we got in their 24-20 win over Gold Coast Titans. Sublime footy wasn't on the agenda last night, this was simply a hearty effort on Australian soil to somehow win a game that never really felt legit until the final whistle.
The set for set grind in the second half was crucial for the Warriors as they consistently repelled the Titans, only giving up 2 points via a penalty. Don't get it twisted as the Wariors forced much of that phase upon themselves via errors and just as it looked like they could wiggle their way into steady minutes down the Titans end of the field, someone coughed up the ball or conceded an untimely penalty. Think back to when Blake Green put in a great long, early kick with a solid kick chase only for the Warriors to concede a penalty and invite the Titans back into the whare.
That sums it up perfect as the Warriors defended stoutly, then Green executed a classy footy play followed up by the team's attitude/effort to back it up with the kick chase ... ugh, penalty. However, the Warriors continued to defend their try-line and we were transported back to when the Titans came to Mt Smart earlier in the year; Titans appeared like a fairly mediocre attacking outfit.
Hence, we can't get too deep into sussing out the Warriors defence or attack. That 20-30 minute period in the second half went a long way to deciding the game and it was pure effort, desire etc to repel the Titans, although this was against the Titans. Even the Warriors attacking movements may not have led to points against a better defensive team, so I'm not out here shouting that the Warriors are awesome.
What was awesome, was that the Warriors found a way to win. There was plenty that went against the Warriors and that's most evident in David Fusitu'a and Jazz Tevaga both having 2 errors; Fusitu'a averages 0.8 errors/game and Tevaga 1, so for whatever reason, they doubled their error count in this game.
The Warriors won a game with 46 percent possession.
There's not much more to this win. Overall, it felt like the Warriors weren't quite as potent as the Titans in running the footy, but there were some impressive running efforts that put the Warriors in position to score their tries. The Warriors averaged 9.53m/run, while the Titans averaged 9.15m/run which is a little advantage to the Warriors stemming from Agnatius Paasi (12runs/122m) and Leeson Ah Mau (10runs/115m) both averaging over 10m/run.
Tohu Harris fell victim to his niggly knee, which puts his 9 runs for 115m effort into some glorious context. Lachlan Burr came off the bench for 8 runs/83m and while Bunty Afoa got some weird minutes, his 2 runs for 25m were timely in helping the Warriors generate a tempo in the second half.
Ken Maumalo averaged 11.8m per run, with 24 runs. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck averaged 10m per run, on 22 runs.
There was also a notable improvement in dummy half running. Tuivasa-Sheck had 2 dummy half runs for 29m, which highlights how dangerous Tuivasa-Sheck can be scooting from the ruck and this felt like a far better outing for the skipper in terms of the variety in his running game; where he runs the footy most notably as he had some dummy half runs, as well as getting the footy out on the edges.
In total, the Warriors had 11 dummy half runs, 4 of which came from backs and then Karl Lawton and Issac Luke combined for 7. The Warriors average 8 dummy half runs this season and I reckon 10 is the bench mark because if the Warriors get over 10 dummy half runs, that means that the backs have come in to mix up how they take their runs. Whether it be Tuivasa-Sheck's variety, or Maumalo passing to Fusitu'a a few times, a seed has been planted in this win, of sprinkling some variety into how the backline goes about their work.
With 46 percent of the footy, the Warriors had to be efficient. Not everyone was efficient in running the footy (eg. Fusitu'a had 16 runs for 124m), but when the Warriors needed a hearty run, they got it. When the Warriors needed to pounce with a try, they did. When the Warriors needed a stop, they defended their line. 2 points and onwards.
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Peace and love 27.