Too little, too late for Warriors
The Warriors at least have a performance to build on heading into this week’s clash against the Sharks but as for their finals chances, it looks to be a case of too little, too late.
While Stephen Kearney’s side was much better than the previous week against the Panthers, the result was the same as they suffered a third-straight defeat on Saturday going down 24-12 to the Cowboys in Townsville.
The Warriors shrugged off the loss of several key players with a resilient defensive display and were in the game until the final 30 seconds when a dropped pass while attacking the line was punished by a length-of-the-field try.
That summed up their night with execution in attack letting them down at crucial stages.
The result has all-but ended their finals hopes, leaving them in 12th place and needing to win at least five of their last six games - a huge task for a side that has not won three in a row all season.
The Cowboys are one of the NRL’s more consistent performers and it was their fourth consecutive win without injured star Johnathan Thurston.
After the game coach, Paul Green spoke of the never-say-die attitude they have developed over the years which has been a foundation of their success.
The Warriors are simply not at that stage yet, although Kearney was not prepared to throw in the towel on the top eight.
‘‘If there is a possibility then we’ll keep fighting,’’ the coach said. ‘‘For me the focus is about building on top of this performance.
‘‘The effort and the energy was wonderful but the execution was a touch off in a few areas.’’
Already without senior duo Shaun Johnson (knee) and Ryan Hoffman (foot), the Warriors received another major injury blow before kick-off when the club revealed prop James Gavet would be sidelined for up to six weeks with a broken arm.
Kearney admitted it made for a disruptive week but could not fault the efforts of his players.
After having his commitment questioned by former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, Kieran Foran did his best to inspire the Warriors to victory.
The Bulldogs-bound five-eighth ran for a team-high 176 metres and had a hand in the side’s two tries. However, he was left to rue a key moment early in the second half when the ball was knocked from his hands over the line.
Foran combined well with new halfback Mason Lino, who built plenty of pressure with an impressive short kicking game in his return to first grade, forcing four goal-line dropouts.
But whether through the Cowboys’ defence or their own lapses, the Warriors let the home team off the hook through poor fifth-tackle options.
‘‘There were stages where the finish to our sets weren’t as polished as what they had been,’’ Kearney said.
‘‘Even regardless of that, sometimes that happens and you’ve got to defend it and I just thought the guys kept turning up for each other.
‘‘But we missed a couple of opportunities where we could’ve got a result.’’
Kearney said the team came through the match unscathed but given their luck with injuries of late, he faces an anxious wait to see how they pull up at training this week.