Defensive woes leave Warriors at the mercy of the Dragons in second straight loss
The only stat you need to know from Friday night's Warriors game is that they missed 57 tackles.
Fail to do your job on defence that often, and you're going to be in for a tough 80 minutes, as they found out, going down 30-14 to the St George Illawarra Dragons in Hamilton.
When the shocking figure was put to Warriors coach Stephen Kearney afterwards, he pointed to the physical battle, where his side came off second best.
"If you're getting beaten physically when you're defending, that's what's going to happen," he said.
"With the missed tackles come offloads, which create missed tackles, then when you're trying to carrying the footy and they're physically getting the better of you, it takes energy out of you."
Now, it will be back to the training field once again, as Kearney looks to arrest a two-game skid that doesn't look like stopping there.
Friday's poor defensive effort was all the more painful because it came on the back of last weekend's second-half collapse against the Penrith Panthers, where the Warriors gave up a 22-point halftime lead.
After a relentless first 10 minutes at FMG Stadium Waikato, it was the Warriors who crossed the line first, Ben Matulino getting on the board in his 200th game for the club.
But from there, things went south quickly, and hopes of a turnaround quickly faded.
Kalifa Faifai Loa got the Dragons on the board in the 20th minute, finishing an attacking move that began inside his own half, as a series of slick passes left the Warriors' defence in disarray and playing catchup.
Centre Tim Lafai added the conversion, and then sparked their next attack, making a 40m run down the left touchline to put them in a good position, which enabled second rower Joel Thompson to cross over several tackles later.
The one-two punch took the wind out of the Warriors' sails, and holes began to open up in their defensive line, particularly around the edges, and an infringement allowed Lafai to extend the lead by two in the 29th minute.
Four minutes later, some clever footwork from Dragons halfback Josh McCrone allowed him to miss a Bodene Thompson tackle that would have ended the set, then turn towards the left edge, where he gave Lafai an easy run in to score.
The Warriors managed to hit back just before the break, when the Dragons failed to deal with a seemingly innocuous Shaun Johnson grubber on the right flank, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was able to pounce in the corner.
But after it, they couldn't fight their way back, and their efforts were summed up when captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck made a silly forward pass at a crucial moment, while they were on the hunt down the right.
Their deficiencies on the other side of the ball remained, and after a couple of scares, it was Hame Sele who made them pay, surging up the middle of the field, largely unencumbered, and creating enough chaos for Nene Macdonald to score in the right-hand corner.
That pushed the margin out to 12 with just under half an hour to play, but the Warriors couldn't get on the front foot, and Faifai Loa put the game to bed on the hour mark, scoring down the left, while Taane Milne added another to pad the margin, which was then shrunk by Nicoll-Klokstad's consolation effort four minutes from time.
It was the Dragon's first win in four games, which should give the Warriors some hope that these back-to-back bad losses need not be the defining moment of their season.
The win moved the Dragons from fifth on the NRL ladder to third, while the Warriors remain in 12th.
St George Illawarra Dragons 30 (Faifai Loa 2, Bodene Thompson, Tim Lafai, Macdonald, Taane Milne tries; Lafai 2 con, pen) NZ Warriors 14 (Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2, Ben Matulino tries; Shaun Johnson con). HT: 10-18