Confidence worry for Warriors
With their finals drought set to stretch to a sixth season, Warriors management face yet another end-ofyear review pondering where it all went wrong.
But of more immediate concern for coach Stephen Kearney is just how to get a team that is already physically and mentally bruised up for the remaining five games.
Friday night’s 26-12 defeat to Cronulla in Auckland – their fourth consecutive defeat – has left the Warriors six points outside the top eight and while they still have a mathematical chance of scraping into the play-offs, it is not going to happen. Not based on what they have shown for the majority of the season.
The players were saying all the right things after the game but on the field they played like a team down on confidence, which Kearney admitted as much in the post-match press conference.
Up against the last-placed Knights this weekend, the Warriors have a golden opportunity to at least snap their losing streak.
But if they head to Newcastle with the wrong attitude simply expecting to win, the Knights are more than capable of adding further embarrassment, as they showed with Saturday’s 21-14 victory over the Dragons.
‘‘There’s no doubt there’s a bit of lack of confidence at the minute. That plays a part, a bit of anxiety,’’ Kearney said.
‘‘Some of the energy and effort was really well directed. But there were times there where we let ourselves down. Their first two tries we pretty much gifted to them and in this competition against the reigning premiers, you just can’t do that.’’
The Warriors defended well for large periods against the Sharks and had no problem getting over the advantage line, out-running the visitors in total metres gained by 100m.
But any momentum generated in attack disappeared as soon they stepped into the Sharks’ red zone, continually coming unstuck with poor handling or passes that failed to find the target. For all the talk during the week about improving their execution with the ball, the Warriors actually took a step backwards.
But Ken Maumalo, whose failure to clean up a grubber kick led to the Sharks’ opening try, insisted it would not be hard to fix.
‘‘It’s just basic pass and catch,’’ the winger said. ‘‘I think it was a lack of concentration from the boys, it was the pass not hitting the money and that’s what cost us.’’
Of their faint finals chances, Maumalo added: ‘‘It’s never over. ‘‘These last five weeks we’ve got to string some wins together and hopefully the teams in top eight lose, it’s as simple as that. We just need to win.’’
The Warriors’ horror run with injuries continued on Friday with experienced back-rower Bodene Thompson suffering a suspected torn pectoral. The injury, if confirmed, would rule Thompson out for the rest of the season, joining Shaun Johnson (knee), Ryan Hoffman (foot), Albert Vete (arm) and Nathaniel Roache (hamstring) on the sidelines.
Kearney will have Sam Lisone available, though, after the NRL match review committee opted not to charge the prop for lifting his knee in a run that knocked out Cronulla’s Fa’amanu Brown. The five-eighth was carried from the field and taken to hospital but has since been cleared of serious injury.
Where have we seen this before as the Warriors 26-12 loss to the Cronulla Sharks on Friday night sinks in.