Warriors v Broncos: Five key points
The Warriors produced their best performance of the year while the Broncos were arguably at their worst as the Kiwi side won their clash 36-18 on Saturday night. Here are five key points from the match at Mt Smart Stadium.
Free Warriors are good Warriors
In the lead-up to the game Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said he had encouraged a more relaxed approach to training, and it appeared to flow into the game on Saturday afternoon.
The Warriors were daring in attack and played what was in front of them, rather than always sticking to a structure, and with it came seven tries.
“I think it was just a change of mindset more than anything,” McFadden said of the improved performance.
“I think it was clear from the outset that our players wanted to play a certain style of footy.”
Captain Ryan Hoffman said it had been a conscious shift to a more open method of attack.
“I suppose that’s probably playing to our strengths, we have got players who play sort of ad-lib,” he said.
“We as a team, and with ‘Cappy' [McFadden] and the coaching staff, made the decision we were going to play footy and that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Difference in fatigue levels clear and important
While the Warriors ran out on Saturday off the back of a bye, with 17 fresh bodies, the Broncos did so following a tough game against the Tigers eight days earlier and with four players backing up from Origin I.
They also rested key players Matt Gillett and Corey Oates after their involvement in Wednesday night’s victory over NSW, and Wayne Bennett believed those factors showed in the opening exchanges.
“It’s the reality and we see it all the time with teams who come off the bye, they have a lot more energy in the first 10 or 15 minutes than the team who hasn’t,” Bennett said.
“They (the Warriors) come off the bye, it goes pretty hand in hand I suppose.”
Brisbane face another challenge now with a five-day turnaround before facing the Raiders on Thursday night.
Left-side duo a welcome addition
Both Manu Vatuvei (leave) and Solomone Kata (suspension) returned to the field for the Warriors in Round 13, and they had a telling impact on the match.
Between them the Tongan pair carried the ball 22 times for a combined 247 metres, while Kata scored a try and made two line breaks.
Post-match Hoffman praised the efforts of both players on the left edge.
“It certainly helps having those guys there, they get your sets off to a really good start and you saw the way ‘Sol’ can finish off tries,” Hoffman said.
“They are certainly assets to our team, but I think what you need to recognise too is that they are not just attacking players, they are very strong defensively too.
“‘Sol’ really showed that tonight against a very good player in James Roberts.”
Unfamiliar territory for Broncos
Brisbane fell to a third-straight loss for the first time in almost two years, and after starting the year with seven victories from their first six games, could now drop out of the top three by the end of the round.
The 18-point loss in Auckland was easily their biggest defeat of the year - up until Round 13 they hadn’t lost by more than two points - and saw them leak 23 points more than their previous 2016 average of 13 per match.
“We didn’t get it right today, but we will get it right next week,” said Bennett.
“We are just not playing well.”
While for Parker it was about concentrating on the things which served them so well at the start of the year.
“For us it’s just about getting back to doing the things we know work for us, that’s as simple as it is, you can’t sugarcoat it any more than that,” Parker said.
Special guest treated to some top-class attacking footy
At one point in the match the TV cameras panned to the coach’s box and zoomed in on a face familiar to most sports fans New Zealand and Australia.
Rugby World Cup winning former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry was present as part of his new role as a mentor to Andrew McFadden, but while he may have been seen, he wasn’t heard much according to McFadden.
“He didn't have much to say at all actually, he just sat at the back,” the under-pressure Warriors coach said when quizzed about Henry’s presence.
“I have been talking to Graham for a while, he just sits back and observes and he will let me know how we went, but it was obviously a nice day to be in the box.
“It’s just giving me support and understanding that what we are trying to do at the Warriors is the right thing to do.”