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A frustrated Warriors side have conceded that poor execution in attack is threatening to derail their 2014 finals hopes.
Following a second-consecutive week where opportunities in the attacking 20 were rarely transformed into points, five-eighth Chad Townsend said their options late in tackle counts were undoing the good work being done in other areas of the game.
“The effort was there, but some of our execution just wasn’t on,” Townsend said after Sunday’s 22-12 loss to the Sea Eagles at Mount Smart Stadium.
“It was a tough game, Manly obviously made a couple of plays more than us and I think we shot ourselves in the foot a few times there when we had momentum and we let them off the hook.
“Being close to a couple of tries… it was touch and go.”
Admittedly over the past two weeks the New Zealanders have gone down to Broncos and Sea Eagles sides who defended with a desperation few teams could break.
It could be said that on any other day the Warriors’ performances probably would have been enough to win, but that excuse has a limited life in a competition as close as the NRL.
Already the latest loss has booted them out of the top eight, with the Kiwi side now back in ninth position, tied on 22 points with five other clubs.
Spluttering attack is also a disturbing issue for a Warriors team who have made a living off being prolific in that area through 2014, and heading into Round 20 had scored 74 tries, more than any other team.
Despite enjoying sustained periods of dominance in the match – most noticeably in the first 15 minutes of both halves – the Warriors failed to take advantage of their chances, clearly missing the composure and class of halfback Shaun Johnson, who missed the clash due to a groin injury.
“It was always going to be tough with the quality of player Shaun is taken out of our side,” said Townsend, who assumed the primary playmaking duties at the scrum base in Johnson’s place.
“I thought I went alright but there are always areas I can improve. I am used to making the calls and plays with Shaun anyway, [so] my role didn’t change too much.”
The most noticeable area of difference between Manly and the Warriors on last tackles was the quality of the kicking game.
Where Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran controlled Sam Tomkins with clever kicks to the corners, and built pressure with an accurate short game, the Warriors kicked dead on several occasions and also found Brett Stewart on the full.
“Shaun is a major part of our team in the kicking department too, there were a couple of areas there where I could have been better,” Townsend conceded.
“There were some times when we built a bit of pressure with a repeat set but were a bit unlucky.”
Meanwhile despite staring down the barrel of three-straight losses for the first time since rounds 5-7, utility Thomas Leuluai said nothing would change this week for the Warriors, who now head to a traditional bogy venue in Canberra to face the 15th-placed Raiders.
“I don’t think [anything will change for us], Manly are a good team mate,” Leuluai said.
“We haven’t played two great teams like that in a row before this, so I don’t know how you can compare it [to earlier in the season].”