War­riors show top-eight steel

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Sarah Har­vey

Is this War­riors side the real deal?

The club that hasn’t been in the top eight for two years should find them­selves sit­ting pretty just in­side the sa­cred eight af­ter a hard-fought 30-20 win against the ta­ble-top­ping Pan­thers at Mt Smart Sta­dium in Auck­land yes­ter­day.

The game, in front of a crowd of 12,800, was played at a fre­netic pace and it was not un­til crowd favourite Shaun John­son scored a ru­n­away try with seven min­utes to go that War­riors fans would have been able to re­lax.

The War­riors had lost their last three games against the Pan­thers, in­clud­ing a hu­mil­i­at­ing 62-6 de­feat last year, one of the club’s dark­est days.

But the War­riors’ re­silient de­fence, and in­ac­cu­rate kick­ing by Pen­rith, meant the War­riors never needed to worry about a white­wash.

For the War­riors, Manu Vatu­vei, who seems to be in some of his best form in re­cent years, was a stand­out both in de­fence and un­der high balls and also in his scin­til­lat­ing at­tack. Feleti Ma­teo again sparked a num­ber of plays through the mid­dle and Sam Tomkins proved re­li­able as ever at the back.

But again, the men of the mo­ment were Kon­rad Hur­rell, who scored two tries, and Shaun John­son, who scored a try and con­verted five, in­clud­ing three from the side­line.

For the Pan­thers, Dean Whare from Bay of Plenty caused all sorts of headaches for the War­riors’ out­side backs, as did the dancing feet of James Sege­yaro and Ty­rone Peachey.

In­jury played havoc with both sides, the War­riors los­ing Ja­son Bukuya and Nathan Friend with con­cus­sion, while the Pan­thers lost their main play­maker, Jamie Soward, just be­fore half­time.

The first 20 min­utes was a War­riors on­slaught with the Pan­thers hav­ing only com­pleted one of four sets in that time. The War­riors, on the other hand, were com­plet­ing close to 90 per cent of their sets.

Hur­rell dived over in the right cor­ner in the tackle of Ja­mal Idris af­ter just 21⁄ min­utes.

The Pan­thers didn’t get their first hitup un­til five min­utes into the game and Manu Vatu­vei danced over in the 14th minute af­ter a se­ries of bul­let-like passes saw him able to dodge any scram­bling Pan­thers de­fend­ers. But the Pan­thers woke up and Peachey put Jamie Soward over 15 min­utes be­fore half­time.

The next Pan­thers try seemed all too easy, with Josh Man­sour jog­ging over, and then a Matt Moy­lan try just be­fore half­time see­ing the vis­i­tors go into the break up by four.

The War­riors came bust­ing out of the gates in the sec­ond half with cap­tain Si­mon Man­ner­ing bar­relling over in the tackle of Pan­thers’ cap­tain Peter Wal­lace af­ter about seven min­utes and John­son’s radar boot struck again.

The Pan­thers re­fused to go down with­out a fight, with Sege­yaro sprint­ing over for a try with 15 to go.

The War­riors held their cool with a last-gasp try to Hur­rell, who forced the ball just be­fore the dead-ball line, be­fore the John­son try sealed the game.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Beastly best: Manu Vatu­vei dots down dur­ing an im­pres­sive game for the War­riors in their 30-20 win over the Pan­thers at Mt Smart Sta­dium in Auck­land yes­ter­day.

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