Who is to blame for Warriors' string of losses?

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio Interviews,
Publish Date
Monday, 1 July 2019, 1:04PM
Bunty Afoa scored his first try of the season against the Penrith Panthers. (Photo / Photosport)

The Warriors insist they can bounce back from Sunday's 19-18 reverse to the Panthers, despite the harrowing nature of the defeat.

It was the kind of loss that can percolate for a few days – and revive a few demons – as the team wonders how they let it slip.

Penrith missed 54 tackles, had two players sinbinned, lost the penalty count 11-5 and trailed by 10 points with 30 minutes to play.

Even more painful was the fact that the home side led 16-12 with less than three minutes to play, before Brent Naden's 80 metre try from deep inside his own territory.

"It was pretty quiet when we walked into the dressing room, everyone was pretty disappointed how it ended," said Warriors forward Adam Blair. "They had their backs against the wall. If there was a game we should have won it was most probably tonight."

The result was the Warriors' fifth consecutive loss at Mt Smart, their worst run at home since 2005.

They haven't won in Auckland since early April, and the result leaves their finals hopes in a critical state, as they face almost all of the top eight contenders over the next two months.

But Blair was adamant the team have the resolve to turn their situation around.

"I don't think it's mentally damaging," said Blair. "That's the beauty of our game..we have to recognize the things we have done wrong in the game and then move on quickly because the competition is so tight."

"It puts a little dent in what we want to do and where we want to go but we still have an opportunity to go over to Newcastle [on Saturday] and perform over there. Every game is tough moving forward. We just need to perform well, respect our game plans, turn up with the same attitude, energy and intent and work hard.

Like coach Stephen Kearney, Blair lamented the circumstances of Naden's 78th minute try, as he beat Patrick Herbert, David Fusitu'a and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on his run to the line. 
"It's about moments in the game when you have to get a job done," said Blair. "With three minutes to go maybe someone was waiting for someone else to get a job done and they dropped off and [Penrith] run down the other end of the field…moments in the game that we need to fix up."

Tuivasa-Sheck, who ran for 277 metres in another whole-hearted display, was also lamenting the Warriors fail to close the game out.

"It was a tough game and the grind was there," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "Just a moment lost it for us and we clocked off. Tackle three in their own 10, that moment we lost it, I put up my hand I needed to make that tackle and we let them score."

After Naden burst between Herbert and Fusitu'a, he shaped to pass to Jarome Luai in support, before stepping past the Warriors fullback as he dived in vain.

"Unfortunately I had too many things in my head," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "I was thinking about Luai and how I can get in between both of them where I should have taken the man with the ball.

I should have pushed him and kept my feet instead of diving for the tackle. It was disappointing, I made the wrong read."

Tuivasa-Sheck praised Herbert's composure to nail a tough penalty shot on the hooter and take the game to golden point, but admitted the Warriors were "outclassed" by James Maloney in golden point, as the New South Wales pivot struck the decisive field goal.

The captain said the team was also devastated for Nathaniel Roache, who left the field late in the second half with a suspected rupture of his ACL.

"He is seeing a specialist [on Monday] and all of us are praying it is not as bad as we think," said Tuivasa-Sheck. "That's all we can do, be around him and support him and hope for the best on Monday. He is one of the toughest, most positive people I know."