Warriors face titanic challenge to playoff chance

00:02, Aug 18 2014
Matt Elliott
Coach Matt Elliott had no answers for Parramatta.
Chad Townsend
Warriors debutant Chad Townsend runs at the Parramatta line.
Dejected Warriors
Dejected Warriors players look on after giving up another try to the Eels.
Sam Tomkins
Fullback Sam Tomkins in action for his first match for the Warriors.
Glen Fisiiahi
Warriors wing Glen Fisiiahi is bundled into touch as he attempted to score.
Warriors fan
A lone Warriors fan at Parramatta Stadium.
Feleti Mateo
Feleti Mateo is pulled down in a tackle around the neck by a St George Illawarra player.
Simon Mannering
Warriors captain Simon Mannering walks off the field with head down.
Sam Tomkins
Sam Tomkins tries to fend off Dragons forward Mike Cooper.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson runs at the St George Illawarra defensive line.
Chad Townsend
Chad Townsend gives out some directions to the Warriors backline.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors is tackled by the Cowboys' Johnathan Thurston in during their clash in Townsville.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Konrad Hurrell blows a kiss to the crowd after scoring a try for the Warriors against the Cowboys.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Warriors coach Matt Elliott looks on as his side plays the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Sione Lousi celebrates after scoring for the Warriors against the Cowboys.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Sam Rapira makes a charge for the Warriors against the Wests Tigers at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Jayson Bukuya goes over to score for the Warriors against the Tigers.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Glen Fisiiahi shows great skill to get the ball down for a Warriors try against the Tigers.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
James Gavet of the Tigers is tackled hard by Jacob Lillyman of the Warriors at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Jacob Lillyman walks off the field after the Warriors' heavy loss to the Sharks in Cronulla.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Sam Tomkins of the Warriors tries to bring down the Sharks' Jeff Robson.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Glen Fisiiahi of the Warriors and Jonathan Wright of the Sharks compete for the ball.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Warriors coach Matt Elliott speaks to the media after his team's crushing loss to the Cronulla Sharks. It would be his last media session before losing his job in the wake of the loss.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Warriors captain Simon Mannering cannot hide his dejection after his team's agonising defeat at the death against the Canterbury Bulldogs at Eden Park.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Dominique Peyroux of the Warriors makes the hard yards against the Bulldogs.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
James Graham of the Bulldogs is stopped in his tracks by some resolute Warriors defence.
NZ Warriors 2014 season
Eden Park has never been a happy hunting ground for the Warriors and the defeat to the Bulldogs only added to an already woeful record there.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson dives after dotting down for a try in the rout of the Raiders.
Chad Townsend and Manu Vatuvei
Chad Townsend jumps on Manu Vatuvei's shoulders after the big wing's try at Eden Park.
Ben Matulino, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei
Ben Matulino, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei
Konrad Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell leaves Raiders defenders in his wake at Eden Park.
Konrad Hurrell
Warriors wing Ngani Laumape contests a high-ball with the Raiders' Bill Tupou.
David Fusitua
David Fusitua of the Warriors dives over in the corner to score.
Warriors
The Warriors line up for the national anthems before the Anzac Day match.
Warriors
Simon Mannering and the Warriors pose with the Michael Moore Trophy after beating the Melbourne Storm.
Sam Tomkins
Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins leaps in front of Billy Slater to grab a high-ball.
Ngani Laumape
Wing Ngani Laumape epitomises the disappointment after the Warriors' 20-10 loss to the Dragons.
Simon Mannering
Captain Simon Mannering wears the dejection on his face after losing at Kogarah.
Thomas Leuluai
Thomas Leuluai breaks through a St George Illawarra tackle.
Nathan Friend
Hooker Nathan Friend makes a run from dummy-half against the Dragons.
Simon Mannering
Simon Mannering forces his way over to score against the Gold Coast Titans.
Simon Mannering
Simon Mannering gets high-fives after scoring in his 200th match and 100th as captain.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei peers out from a pile of bodies to signal a try.
David Fusitu'a
Wing David Fusitu'a beats the Gold Coast defence to dive over in the corner.
Chad Townsend
Chad Townsend (right) leads a Warriors gang-tackle on Newcastle's Dane Gagai.
Ben Matulino
Ben Matulino off-loads with a back flick pass against the Titans.
Warriors fan
A Warriors super-fan with his face painted as the Joker on the Gold Coast.
Sam Tomkins
Sam Tomkins kicks-off for the Warriors against the Knights.
Sam Rapira
Sam Rapira (right) and Feleti Mateo run out of the tunnel at Mt Smart Stadium.
Jayson Bukuya
Jayson Bukuya looks to offload in the tackle of Kirisome Auva'a during the Warriors loss to South Sydney.
Simon Mannering
Things were looking good for the Warriors after Simon Mannering's 50th-minute try gave them a 14-6 lead. However they were outscored 28-4 from that point.
Chad Townsend and Simon Mannering
From the looks on Chad Townsend's (left) and Simon Mannering's faces, it's easy to tell the Warriors were outscored 28-8 in the second half.
Warriors fans
Warriors fans turned out in force for South Sydney's 'home' match in Perth.
Konrad Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell makes a break during the round 15 victory over the Brisbane Broncos.
Try
The Warriors celebrate Ben Henry's try during the round 15 win over the Brisbane Broncos.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors beats the tackle of Todd Lowrie of the Broncos during the round 15 clash.
Tackle
Alex Glenn of the Broncos is tackled by three Warriors during the round 15 clash.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson celebrates after scoring a breakaway try against the Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson breaks away on his way to scoring a try against the Penrith Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium.
Manu Vatuvei
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei charges forward during his side's round 16 NRL match against the Penrith Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium.
Manu Vatuvei
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei runs in to score a try against the Panthers.
Nigel Plum
Nigel Plum of the Panthers charges forward during his side's round 16 NRL match against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
NZ Warriors
Fans' faith was rewarded by the Warriors at Mt Smart in round 19 of the NRL when their team trounced Parramatta Eels 48-0.
NZ Warriors
Sam Tomkins stretches out for a try in the Warriors' round 19 NRL clash with Parramatta Eels.
NZ Warriors
Feleti Mateo feels nothing in the contact in the Warriors' round 19 NRL clash with the Eels.
NZ Warriors
Ben Henry does feel the contact, however.
NZ Warriors
Sam Tomkins offloads in the tackle during the Warriors' round 19 NRL game against the Eels.
Ben Matulino
Ben Matulino is picked up and dumped by two Broncos players in Brisbane.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson chips over Broncos prop Josh McGuire.
Ben Henry
Ben Henry utility forward Ben Henry looks to steamroll Josh Hoffman.
Dale Copley
Warriors prop Suaia Matagi drags Brisbane wing Dale Copley by the scruff of the neck.
Josh Hoffman
Brisbane standoff Josh Hoffman grimaces in pain after a hit from Warriors Lock Sebastine Ikahihifo.
Warriors players
Dejected Warriors players at the final whistle at Suncorp Stadium.
Simon Mannering
Captain Simon Mannering delivers a message to his side.
Daley Cherry-Evans
Manly's Daley Cherry-Evans runs in to score against the Warriors in their round 20 clash.
Nathan Friend
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend gets into the clear against the Sea Eagles.
Konrad Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell barges over for another try against Manly in round 20.
Simon Mannering
Warriors captain Simon Mannering shows his disappointment after their loss to the Sea Eagles.
Ben Matulino
Warriors prop Ben Matulino on the charge against Manly.
Sam Tomkins
Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins retrieves a kick during the round 20 match against the Sea Eagles.
Konrad Hurrell
Konrad Hurrell celebrates yet another try against the Raiders in Canberra.
Manu Vatuvei
Big Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei is all smiles after this try against the Raiders.
Canberra Raiders
The Canberra Raiders huddle under their posts after one of the many Warriors tries during their round 21 clash.
Sam Rapira
Warriors prop Sam Rapira thuds into the Raiders defence.
Warriors
Several Warriors player make a tackle on Raiders big man Josh Papalii
Thomas Leuluai
Thomas Leuluai of the Warriors is hit in a big tackle by Raiders prop David Shillington.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors looks to beat the tackle of Andrew Fifita (right) and Tupou Sopoaga of the Sharks during their round 22 clash at Mt Smart Stadium.
Feleti Mateo
Warriors backrower Feleti Mateo is lifted in a tackle during his side's round 22 NRL match against the Sharks.
Chad Townsend
Chad Townsend of the Warriors beats the tackle of Tim Robinson of the Sharks in round 22.
Ricky Leutele
Ricky Leutele of the Sharks looks to beat Warriors utility Thomas Leuluai's tackle in round 22 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Ngani Laumape
Ngani Laumape of the Warriors is tackled by the Knights defence during the round 23 NRL match at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
Sione Louisi
Sione Louisi of the Warriors is tackled by Chris Houston of the Knights during the round 23 match at Hunter Stadium.
David Fusitu'a
Warriors winger David Fusitu'a scores a miracle try against the Knights at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
Kurt Gidley
Kurt Gidley of the Knights is tackled by Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson in round 23.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves charges forward during the Roosters' round 24 NRL match against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
James Maloney
Former Warriors playmaker James Maloney runs circles around his old club during the Roosters' round 24 win at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Ben Matulino
Ben Matulino of the Warriors makes a hitup during his side's round 24 NRL match against the Sydney Roosters.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams of the Roosters attempts to break the line during his side's win over the Warriors in Auckland.
Sam Tomkins
Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins avoids the clutches of Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce in round 24 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Dominique Peyroux
Warriors utility Dominique Peyroux celebrates with Sam Tomkins and Manu Vatuvei after scoring a try against the Titans.
Mark Ioane
Mark Ioane of the Titans charges forward during his side's loss to the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium in round 25.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break against the Titans in round 25 at Mt Smart Stadium.
Konrad Hurrell
Blockbusting Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell charges forward during his side's round 25 clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Mt Smart Stadium.
Nathan Friend
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend is tackled by two Titans defenders during his side's 42-0 win in round 25.
Will Smith
Will Smith of the Panthers is tackled during his side's round 26 win over the Warriors in Sydney.
Feleti Mateo
Warriors back-rower Feleti Mateo is tackled during his side's final regular season game against the Panthers.
Warriors players
Warriors players watch on after a Panthers try during their loss to Penrith in Sydney.
Matt Moylan
Penrith fullback Matt Moylan scores a try against the Warriors in round 26.
Manu Vatuvei
Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei is tackled during his side's round 26 loss to the Panthers.

The Warriors face two teams currently in the NRL's top four before the finals series is confirmed, yet the biggest threat to qualification could be posed by a club that is already out of title contention.

Although the Sydney Roosters and Penrith were in third and fourth place respectively, on recent form it was the lowly Gold Coast Titans - the team the Warriors visit either side of games with the premiership contenders - that could define the Kiwi club's season.

The Warriors' tendency to struggle against clubs that have spent 2014 in varying degrees of disarray has emerged at a worrying time for head coach Andrew McFadden who yesterday watched his roster slump to their first loss in Newcastle since 2009 - a 28-22 defeat that jeopardised their progression to post-season for the first time since 2011

Simon Mannering
STAYING POSITIVE: The Warriors NRL playoffs fate is not entirely in their own hands, but captain Simon Mannering says his team still have a lot to play for in their last two regular season matches.

A failure to collect two points at Hunter Stadium - seven days after wooden spoon contenders Cronulla were difficult to put away at Mt Smart - prevented the Warriors improving to fifth on the table with just three games remaining.

Considered by many Australian league pundits to be a top eight certainty - and even a top four seed for the first time since 1997 - another late season fade out was starting to materialise with Parramatta, Brisbane and St George Illawarra all within range.

In 2013 they beat Melbourne in round 20, but dropped out of the play-offs when a loss to the floundering Sharks triggered a costly three-game slump.

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Admittedly Newcastle - who have endured a horror 2014 highlighted by former Warriors prop Russell Packer being jailed for assault, Alex McKinnon's spinal injury and Wayne Bennett's impending departure - had won five of their last seven games before the Warriors arrived, including a miraculous 32-30 cliffhanger over the Storm last weekend.

Still, the Warriors should have maintained their excellent record against a team ranked 14th, a place below the Titans on points differential - but superior goal kicking by Kurt Gidley proved the difference after both sides scored five tries.

Newcastle also dominated the key facets with a 9-5 penalty count and their 90 per cent completion rate underpinning a performance that left fans wondering what might have been.

Although the Warriors regrouped from a 14-point deficit late in the opening half - and then drew level - another 10-point buffer proved insurmountable despite late tries to David Fusitu'a and Manu Vatuvei.

"It was an important game to consolidate our position on the ladder, but we let it go," McFadden lamented after watching 18-year-old wing Sione Mata'utia score the first tries on his career - a hat-trick.

"We scored enough points, but conceded too many. If we want to be a top team, we just can't do that."

Ill-discipline was a feature throughout and there could be further repercussions for skipper Simon Mannering after he was placed on report for a high shot on Dane Gagai in the fourth minute.

McFadden was encouraged by the rally in the first half - where Fusitu'a and Vatuvei were again the scorers, but after the break, bad habits gradually re-emerged.

"We were quite optimistic at halftime that if we knuckled down, were patient with the football and fixed up our discipline we could get away with a win, but it was probably a little bit more of the same in the second half," he said.

McFadden denied complacency was an issue given the Knights epic comeback against Melbourne.

"We were ready, we certainly had the right mind set, we just lacked the execution and discipline things with our defence."

On a positive note halfback Shaun Johnson at least made a sound return from a persistent groin injury.

"I thought he was good," McFadden said.

"He had a couple of little errors there, but he was threatening, he ran the ball and his kicking game as fair.

SCOREBOARD

Newcastle Knights 28: (Sione Mata'utia 3, Joey Leilua, Chanel Mata'utia tries; Kurt Gidley 4 goals)

NZ Warriors 22: (David Fusitu'a 2, Manu Vatuvei 2, Nathan Friend tries; Chad Townsend goal)

Halftime: 14-10

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