Fisiiahi gamble proves worth it for NZ Warriors
Glen Fisiiahi doesn't need reminding there is no such thing as a certain try in rugby league so a desperate slap at Kiwis centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall was a gamble worth taking last night before the New Zealand Warriors stunned the Sydney Roosters.
Fisiiahi's relaxed coast to the line at ANZ Stadium two years ago while playing for the Warriors title-winning under-20s team backfired dramatically when he looked skywards when he should have glanced behind and noticed Hayden O'Donnell wasn't giving up the chase.
The South Sydney second rower barrelled into Fisiiahi as he made a leisurely touch down, he lost control of the ball - a squandered four-pointer that features on YouTube as a reminder to maintain concentration.
Kenny-Dowall experienced similar embarrassment across town at Allianz Stadium when he looked odds-on to level the scores after 66 minutes of a gripping NRL clash.
The experienced finisher appeared to have stepped the Warriors fullback who cleverly extended an arm and managed to dislodge the ball as Roosters fans groaned in unison.
"It was sort of instinct. He's got a fair step on him, the last thing I could do was play at the ball," Fisiiahi said as the Warriors celebrated a 23-12 victory.
"Maybe he could have drawn and passed, it was just one of those things."
Fisiiahi, who has been playing with a niggly foot injury for several weeks, scored a crucial try before his defensive heroics and was surprised the video referees ruled out a touchdown in the 47th minute after he apparently lost control of a Shaun Johnson grubber.
"I was sure that was OK, I couldn't figure out why it wasn't given," he shrugged.
Johnson also played in discomfort with a groin injury although the pain was not a consideration as he reeled in Michael Jennings as he was on track for his ninth try of the season.
"It's pretty sore. I'm certainly happy we've got a bye (this week)," the halfback said.
Johnson has had problems with his groin since succeeding James Maloney as the Warriors first choice kicker this year and aggravated it during training before the squad crossed the Tasman.
He did no goal kicking last week but did convert a late penalty before slotting a last minute field goal.
"It probably wasn't the best for it (chasing down Jennings) but I was there at that time and I'm happy I could make that play.
"I guess it was all for something."
Veteran Manu Vatuvei was the other wounded Warrior to turn the match when he trapped a Kenny-Dowall grubber and swooped to pick up the ball before surging 90 metres for the game-sealing score.
"I'm just happy my legs held up," he said, sporting icepacks on both hamstrings.
"Near the end I felt my hammy's were going to give way. I was starting to cramp up."
Vatuvei evaded former Kiwis teammate Frank-Paul Nuuausala while Boyd Cordner at least prevented the big wing from narrowing the angle for substitute goal kicker Feleti Mateo.
"I was starting to slow down, I just wanted to get over the line," he smiled.
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott praised Vatuvei's perseverance.
"He's been on light duties at training. He's been carrying a knee and a hamstring injury for a while.
"I thought his contribution was phenomenal."
Elliott's counterpart Trent Robinson was not as enamoured with Kenny-Dowall's lapse.
"It's obviously disappointing. You want to ice those one's when you get those opportunities but we still had opportunities after that," he said, blaming "frantic play" poor options and a lack of composure for contributing to the Warriors resurgence.