Roosters extend Warriors losing streak

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 21:30 16/03/2013
Sonny Bill Williams
Photosport
HAPPY HOMECOMING: Sonny Bill Williams charges ahead for the Sydney Roosters.

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While the drought may well be about to break for the nation's farmers, the Warriors dry spell in the NRL continues.

But it was a near-run thing as the club lost 16-14 to the Roosters at Eden Park, thanks largely to the abilities of Shaun 'Magic' Johnson.

The mercurial halfback was in everything for the Warriors. His kicking game was the only bright spot in an inept first half performance by the hosts, before he turned into the conductor in the second.

He'd score the Warriors first try, and set up their other two, but with the opportunity to even the scores with a conversion with just five minutes to go, he'd miss. Such is football.

Yet while the margin of victory was only two points for the Roosters, problems ring loudly for Matt Elliott's side. Who should play as hooker, and their defensive frailties are the first two that need addressing.

The Warriors have now dropped the first two matches of their first-grade season, stretching their NRL losing streak to ten.

Roosters backs Anthony Minichiello and Kenny-Dowall were stunning defensively for the visitors, while Michael Jennings looks to have found a home at the Sydney glamour club.

The talented, but, at-times, laconic former Panthers centre set up their first try and nearly scored two himself in a combative effort.

The Roosters had won just five of their previous 25 away fixtures coming into the game, while their hosts had lost only three of their last 13 matches against the Sydney-siders.

Yet after a brief shower on Eden Park just minutes before kick-off, it wouldn't be long before history was looking like being turned on its head.

A stunning fifth-minute break from Jennings would set up Minichiello only metres from the try line

The veteran fullback was just able to get the ball down, thanks to a spectacular dive that allowed him to avoid a covering tackle from Warriors skipper Simon Mannering.

The pressure continued from the Roosters, notching three straight attacking sets on the Warriors line.

The Warriors defence bowed but didn't break, and soon the patient hosts would be able to apply some of their own pressure thanks to Johnson.

The halfback's kicking radar was definitely on, and a well-measured 40/20 gave his side their first attacking opportunity.

It would be bungled, with Feleti Mateo fumbling with the line begging. Indeed, clean possession was proving difficult for both sides thanks to the greasiness of the Eden Park pitch.

Mannering, usually the most dependable man on the paddock, was below par in the first stanza - making two uncharacteristic fumbles in key sets.

Johnson's boot would put the Roosters under pressure several more times in the half, but thanks to astute defensive games of Kenny-Dowall and Minichiello, they would rarely threaten.

A clever movement involving Johnson, Mateo and centre Dane Nielsen nearly saw Bill Tupou go over in the left-hand corner, but the young winger simply ran out of room with the Roosters left edge covering.

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It would be the last opportunity the hosts would get for some time, with the Roosters coming out big at the start of the second half.

A clever offload by Daniel Mortimer, combined with inept defending from the hosts, allowed utility Mitch Aubusson to wriggle over just two minutes after halftime.

Kenny-Dowall would follow him four minutes later, with the Warriors left edge looking ordinary again.

The Warriors looked on the ropes - but it was Johnson who would spark them, and the 32,740 strong crowd back into life.

Breaking through the Roosters right edge after 51 minutes, the fleet-footed halfback went 70 metres to claim the Warriors first try of the match.

He'd turn creator for their next three minutes later, with a neat pass sending utility Pita Godinet over from just two metres out.

For the first time in the match, the Warriors had the game's momentum in their hands and the trench warfare of the first stanza seemed a distant memory.

Mortimer continued to run the ship well for the Roosters, while former All Black Sonny Bill Williams, who had a quiet first half, began to flex his muscles.

Indeed, he nearly turned creator for Jennings after 68 minutes, delivering the speedy winger a stunning offload which would see him travel 60 metres before being bundled into touch, just over the line.

Johnson would kick to Tupou who would score late, but was unable to convert ensuring a third loss at Eden Park from three attempts for the Warriors. 

Sydney Roosters 16 (A Minichiello, M Aubusson, S Kenny-Dowall tries; J Maloney 2 goals) NZ Warriors 14 (S Johnson, P Godinet, B Tupou tries; S Johnson goal). HT: 6-0 

- Stuff

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