Warriors get the job done despite distractions
It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, and could yet become crucial as the Warriors head into the business end of the National Rugby League season.
The Warriors' 19-10 win over the Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday night was fought out mainly in defence with only rare glimpses of the team's well-known spark, but it was an ideal start to a run of three home games, with a bye thrown in for good measure.
Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman, who played a role in State of Origin three days earlier, said a hard-fought win was crucial to be able to use as a springboard for the rest of the season.
There are 11 rounds left in the regular season and the team is sitting on 16 points, just outside the top eight.
''We are there or thereabouts but if we can rack up these home games then, as well as the bye, I think that will put us right in the mix and make a run home to the finals,'' Lillyman said.
In the past, Warriors teams had been guilty of losing tight games, he said.
''Defence wins game, and [the Broncos] are a really good attacking side. We weren't at our best but when we had to, we defended well and scrambled well and came up with a few plays that got us out of trouble.
''You are going to get those games from time to time and I think the last couple of years, more often than not, we have lost those games - and probably a couple this year already, but we dug in and did what we had to do to get the two points.''
Coach Andrew McFadden agreed.
''I certainly think we have played better footy but to get the two points in a scrappy affair, it's what we need at this time of the year.''
McFadden said the team appeared to be lacking focus before the game on Saturday, for a reason he could not elucidate, and he was pleased they were able to hang in there to get the win.
One of those who could not be blamed for a lack of focus was Lillyman but he looked none the worse for wear for his Origin ordeal despite saying he felt mentally fatigued coming into the game.
''The body was not too bad. It's probably more mentally, coming into the game I was a bit tired. I didn't get much sleep Wednesday night and then the plane trip home. Mentally it was the toughest one to get through this game but I'm just happy to get through it with two points.''
Two of the Broncos Origin players, Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillett, also backed up from Origin but Gillett was injured in the first 10 minutes.
Lillyman said Origin was a rollercoaster of emotions, but despite that he would love to be in the mix for the third game.
''Although the series is gone, we spoke about it after the game about how there is still one game to go and it will be a lot worse feeling if it was a clean sweep, so we will certainly be looking to bounce back in that third one.''
The Warriors have a couple of headaches as a result of the Broncos game, with concerns about an injury to young wing David Fusitu'a who wrenched his knee, and Suaia Matagi and Ngani Laumape both facing dangerous tackle charges.
Warriors 19 (Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Chad Townsend tries; Shaun Johnson 3 con, 1 field goal)
Broncos 10 (Jake Granville, Ben Barba tries; Ben Hunt con) Halftime: 13-6.