There was a refreshing absence of burden at the presser table in Townsville on Saturday night, as new NZ Warriors coach Andrew Webster discussed his team's remarkably composed 26-12 win over North Queensland Cowboys.
The Warriors were structured, direct, and robust defensively in the surprisingly convincing victory over the Cowboys at one of the most inhospitable venues for any visiting team in the competition.
The nature of the victory was hugely encouraging for the team's faithful supporters, who undoubtedly savoured the rare experience of closing out a win with fingernails relatively intact.
The win was their first in Townsville since 2018, moving them up to provisional fourth-place on the NRL ladder.
Chiefs among the plaudits from Webster were the efforts of the Warriors forward pack, who dominated the critical middle third of the park and provided a constant and effective passing threat at the line.
"We wanted to see what our forward pack could do if we had more than 50 percent of the ball,” Webster said.
"We haven't had that in stages at the preseason trials and the start of the season. We wanted to see how dominant they could be.
"They’re a very hard working side and it’s one of the strengths of our team and tonight we got to see that.I was really happy for them. They worked hard, they were fast over the advantage line with the ball and looked dangerous.
"Passing the ball to each other, knowing their role, reloading down their end so they were having one effort and then having another effort."
Addin Fonua-Blake was at the forefront of the effort with 144 metres gained, closely followed by Mitch Barnett (135m) and Tohu Harris (124m).
The Warriors backs also did their share of work with ball in hand, as Marcelo Montoya (228m) and rookie fullback Taine Tuaupiki helped the team establish early momentum in their sets.
"For our back three, we've worked hard on that," he said.
"If we're going to get into an arm wrestle with a team we need them to get forward for us and once they get forward, these guys (forwards) can own it on tackle three, four and five and then we put a good kick in."
The Warriors' defence was another feature of their performance, scrambling well all day to keep their try line untarnished 67 minutes of the match, with Reece Robson's 13th-minute score the last conceded by the visitors.
Defending has rarely been a strong point for the Warriors, but Webster believes it's been one of the highlights of their play through the early stages of the season.
"There were three or four efforts right at the end of the game where we could have let them score and still won the game, but we kept turning up for each other," noted Webster. "We were desperate on our try line.
"We do need to get a bit more coordinated with our movements, spacings and things like that, but our try line defence is probably one of our strongest parts at the moment."
But the result came at a cost for the Warriors. Outstanding new recruit Mitch Barnett departed with injury, making his status for next week's homecoming uncertain.
Hooker Wayde Egan will almost certainly be ruled out due to concussion protocols, after his collision with Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo. One of the team's best in 2023, Egan's absence would be keenly felt, admitted Webster.
"He's okay, he's talking fine," he said. "It's the third time he’s come off and they’re not all for concussion this year.
"But the poor bugger is in the wars at the moment and he's pretty important to the way we want to play."
The team now returns to Auckland, where they'll make their first appearance of the year at their Mt Smart Stadium headquarters against Canterbury Bulldogs.
And given the way they're playing, the Sydneysiders can expect a raucous crowd to greet them.2023-03-18T20:16:15Z dg43tfdfdgfd