There was good news and bad for a pair of veterans as the Warriors turned around their poor NRL campaign in Wellington last night.
Long-serving centre Jerome Ropati suffered a broken jaw early in the rollicking victory over the Tigers to add another unwanted chapter to a career that has been plagued with untimely injuries.
But while it was a night to forget for Ropati, another experienced Warriors campaigner made a successful return from injury.
Thomas Leuluai didn't take long to make his mark on his return, and it was no coincidence the Warriors looked a more assured and composed side when he was injected into the game.
Down 12-0 in the first half, the Warriors were the error-riddled rabble that so frustrates their fans. But three tries in the last seven minutes of the period saw them soar ahead on the scoreline and ultimately provide the momentum for a convincing win.
It was Leuluai's first game since last September apart from three minutes of action against Papua New Guinea in the Kiwis' world cup campaign. He immediately showed why he's rated so highly by his club and country, even though he was out of position last night.
"I was blowing there for a bit and I had to play in the middle because of Jerome getting injured, so I did what's best for the team," Leuluai said."There were good areas but there are patches we need to work on and we can't get carried away."
The second half ended up being a vintage Warriors performance as they scored several tries with some of the razzle-dazzle their fans love. But Leuluai played down the flair and talked up the graft.
"I'm more pleased about our defence, defending the line and hanging in there more than the tries."
But the broken jaw suffered by Ropati, who faces yet another lengthy spell on the sidelines, was the one sour note from last night.
"It does take the shine off it," Leuluai said. "I feel sorry for him."
- Sunday Star Times
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