The New Zealand Warriors left Western Australia for must-win territory today after experiencing another grim loss to NRL premiers Manly, a defeat that saw star centre Konrad Hurrell allegedly targeted by foul play.
Warriors head coach Brian McClennan claimed the NRL rookie's ankle was deliberately stomped on by Kangaroos and NSW second rower Tony Williams, who has already served a seven-game suspension for a dangerous throw on Newcastle's Isaac de Gois in March.
One of Manly's most damaging forwards, "T Rex" might be in more strife with the NRL judiciary when the match review panel appraise a contest won 24-22 by the Sea Eagles after they clawed back from a 22-6 deficit with 25 minutes remaining at Perth's Paterson Stadium last night.
"He (Hurrell) got stamped on by Tony Williams," said McClennan as he reflected on a loss where the damage was also self-inflicted.
"Obviously the review committee will have a look at that."
Williams's second row teammate and fellow State of Origin and Australian representative Anthony Watmough could also be in bother after appearing to wrench Kevin Locke's arm as the fullback was tackled - a "chicken wing" style offence the judiciary clamped down on last week when Penrith's Travis Burns was banned for three games.
Watmough was penalised by referee Alan Shortall but the match officials took no action against Williams when Hurrell - the Warriors top try-scorer - limped off in the 15th minute.
He was able to return in the second half but his mobility was clearly affected and Manly targeted his edge as they completed a stirring recovery when Jamie Lyon converted Daly Cherry-Evans' second try with two minutes to play.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey had no comment on McClennan's claim and thought the contest between last year's grand finalists was "pretty passive."
"There were a couple of penalties either way, I'm not too concerned." he said after Manly improved a spot to sixth by ending a two-match losing streak with their sixth straight triumph against the New Zealanders.
His counterpart McClennan has more to worry about than Williams' alleged rough treatment of one of his star players.
For a second successive game the Warriors have let a big lead slip after halftime.
Newcastle scored 24 unanswered points at Mt Smart after trailing 19-0 while the Sea Eagles soared after facing an 18-0 deficit a minute from halftime and 22-6 shortfall five minutes after the resumption.
"It's pretty heart breaking," said McClennan.
"We completed enough sets and defended better and for longer periods but at the end of the day I think it was just looking at that scoreboard, seeing we're ahead and protecting that lead too much.
"We didn't throw enough at them when we had the ball to tire them out. They were definitely the attacking team in the last quarter."
He would not use the long flight to Perth and Friday's late arrival as an excuse.
"That was nothing to do with travel, Manly had to travel across as well," he said, although his opponents arrived in Perth on Wednesday.
Other than Hurrell's ongoing issues with his ankle, and absent captain Simon Mannering's more recent leg problem, McClennan's biggest concern is the psychological damage caused by two avoidable defeats.
"We've made our path a bit harder but it's our doing," he said.
"All we can do is get ready for Cronulla (in Auckland on Sunday)."
The Warriors are 12th with five rounds of the regular season remaining and although they have a positive points differential and are just two points outside the top eight, back-to-back meltdowns means another finals campaign cannot be taken for granted.
So far the Warriors have not won more than two games on the trot in 2012 so the task is ominous with McClennan conceding: "We think we'll need five."
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