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Match Summary The New Zealand Warriors have moved one step closer to securing a home semi final after today thrashing the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 36-14 in front of 25,070 parochial fans at Mt Smart Stadium.
Up against a Manly team that was missing some of their biggest stars in Brett Stewart, Steve Bell, and Brent Kite, and featuring two players on their debut, it was widely expected that the full-strength Warriors outfit would dominate from start to finish.
It was, however, Manly who gained the upper hand, racing out to a 10-2 lead after twenty minutes through tries to Chris Hicks and debutant Michael Bani.
The Warriors then clicked into gear and dominated possession and field position, coming up with two tries to Epalahame Lauaki and Wairangi Koopu to find themselves ahead 12-10 at the break.
With Manly reduced to a three man interchange after Glenn Hall picked up an injury after just one minute, managing interchanges and fatigue was always going to be a problem for them in the second half.
The second half belonged largely to the Warriors, who off the back of a 10-4 penalty count, and countless errors by the Sea Eagles, capitalised through tries to George Gatis, Koopu, Simon Mannering, and Manu Vatuvei.
The Sea Eagles managed to get one of their own through Jamie Lyon, but the result was never in doubt.
New Zealand Warriors 36 Tries: Epalahame Lauaki, Wairangi Koopu (2), George Gatis, Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei Goals: Michael Witt (6/8) Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 14 Tries: Michael Bani, Chris Hicks, Jamie Lyon Goals: Jamie Lyon (1/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Wade McKinnon (Warriors) 2 Points: Steve Price (Warriors) 1 Point: Michael Witt (Warriors)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good afternoon and welcome to a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium for today's clash between the New Zealand Warriors and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. It's a big day for the Warriors - today marks the first sell-out regular season home game since their debut season, all the way back in 1995. A win for the Warriors today, apart from lifting the roof right off the grandstands, will also see the Warriors move back into the top four, and one game closer to the much coveted home semi final. Manly don't have a real lot to play for - win or lose they will remain second on the ladder, and guaranteed to at least see the second week of the finals. The lack of risk going into this match seemingly reflected in team changes made by coach Des Hasler, but if you were to believe him they're treating this match just like any other, and will be playing for the win.
Team changes are as such: WARRIORS: The Warriors are as pre program, with fullback Wade McKinnon making his long awaited return from injury. SEA EAGLES: Wholesale changes have been made to the team named earlier in the week with Brett Stewart, Steve Bell, Glenn Stewart, Brent Kite, Luke Williamson, and Matt Ballin all left out by coach Hasler. Michael Robertson moves from wing to fullback, Jamie Lyon goes from 5/8 to centre, and Steve Menzies goes from centre to 5/8. Glenn Hall and Jack Afamasaga both come from the bench into the starting lineup at prop and second row respectively. New faces in the team include Clint Halden and Michael Bani filling out the backline at centre and wing, and Jason Wells coming into lock forward. Travis Burns, Jason King and Vic Mauro all join Adam Cuthbertson on the bench.
It's a fantastic looking crowd here on what looks to be an overcast afternoon. Here's hoping the weather stays fine and dry for what looms to be an outstanding clash between two of the heavyweights of the competition.
0 min: And we're underway here at Mt Smart with the Sea Eagles getting first use of the footy.
1 min: One minute gone, and we've already had one mistake each from both teams, and an injury to boot as Glenn Hall is assisted from the field by a trainer.
2 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Manly get the first penalty of the match after the Warriors are found to be too slow in the ruck. Straight away though they lose any advantage they gained after Cuthbertson lost the ball on the very first tackle.
2 min: PENALTY - Warriors: The Warriors get their first penalty, this one for a grapple tackle.
4 min: PENALTY GOAL New Zealand Warriors. It's been an interesting start to the game, with the Warriors getting another penalty, this one for slowing down the play the ball. Michael Witt kicks the penalty from right in front and the Warriors have first points.
6 min: Manly finally get down into the Warriors territory, but don't come away with anything as Orford puts the 5th tackle kick dead in-goal.
9 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Manly get their second penalty of the game, and find themselves with a fresh set of six deep inside the Warriors half.
10 min: Orford puts a better kick into the in-goal this time, trapping McKinnon and earning his side the repeat set.
12 min: Desperate goal line defence from the Warriors somehow denies Menzies of an almost certain try.
13 min: Ropati is off injured for the Warriors, with Koopu coming in to replace him.
16 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try...
16 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Michael Bani grabs a try on debut for the Sea Eagles. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon unsuccessful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 4-2
18 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Following a fantastic kick return from McKinnon, Menzies gives away a penalty for being offside at marker.
19 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Another penalty for offside, and the Warriors will continue to pile pressure onto this Manly defensive line.
22 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Absolutely fantastic try here to the Sea Eagles. Starting on his own 40 metre line, Monaghan takes advantage of lazy markers, dashes out of dummy half then passes to Orford who goes through a huge hole and races downfield. Not being the fastest player on field, Orford is easily run down by Vatuvei, McKinnon and other Warriors defenders, yet they all try to tackle him high, and therefore fail. Orford then passes to Robertson, who then throws, what replays show to be, a two metre forward pass to Hicks who dives over in the corner. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 10-2
23 min: Footage shows Steve Menzies leaving the field and heading up the tunnel holding a blood stained towel to his nose.
25 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Sea Eagles are penalised in possession after Clint Halden walks off the mark at the play the ball.
26 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Lauaki scores a try out of absolutely nothing. In spreading the ball wide, Witt's pass out to Mannering landed on his boot, and was then picked up by Vatuvei, who then passed back inside to Lauaki who hesitated, then ran towards the line, stepping away from Robertson to score. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 10-8
31 min: Orford's fifth tackle clearing kick gets charged down and regathered by the Eagles. Six to go deep inside the Warriors half.
32 min: Steve Price just barely knocks the ball dead before Robertson gets to it. Sea Eagles to get another set courtesy of a Micheal Witt drop out
36 min: The Warriors run the ball on the last and find a few holes up the middle of the Manly ruck, before being pulled up for a forward pass.
37 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors All too easy for the Warriors here. Getting the ball from a scrum on their 40 metre line, the ball is passed through Witt and McKinnon and out to Koopu who fends away from the Manly defenders and races away down the sideline to score. Witt misses just his third kick of the year, from a relatively easy position. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 12-10
40 min: And it's half time here, with the Warriors going into the break leading 12-10.
HALF TIME: In what has been an entertaining match to watch, Manly have proved that even though they left six of their best players out of the team, they are a strong club in terms of depth, with their rookies matching it with a full strength Warriors outfit. Best on field for each team so far include Orford, Monaghan and Robertson for Manly, and McKinnon, Witt and Price for the Warriors. Both teams have their own injury concerns, with Manly reduced to a 3-man interchange after just one minute when Glenn Hall left the field with what looked to possibly be a shoulder injury. The Warriors then lost Ropati halfway through the half and it is not known whether he'll return for the second 40.
40 min: Orford gets the second half underway!
40 min: PENALTY - Warriors: The Warriors get the first penalty of the second half and find themselves up over halfway with tackles to spare.
42 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: Warriors can consider themselves harshly done by after being penalised for one of the stupidest rules in the book. Robertson dives to collect a grubber a metre out from his own line, and then makes no attempt to get up, essentially committing a voluntary tackle. Lauaki then picks him up and takes him back to the in-goal, which in this updaters opinion should be allowed.
44 min: Manly play some enterprising footy on the Warriors line, making plenty of offloads and getting the Warriors defence at sixes and sevens, with the play coming undone after a Hicks grubber goes straight into legs and over the sideline.
45 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Lauaki cops a high shot from Jason King, and takes a long time to get up. After video review King is put on report.
49 min: Menzies once again goes within a hairs width of scoring a try, with Crockett beating him to the ball in the in-goal. Warriors end up with their fourth goal line dropout, with the Sea Eagles yet to have one.
50 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try...
50 min: NO TRY - Penalty Warriors: Watmough is ruled to have run through and obstructed Witt from making a tackle on Robertson who went over for the try. Warriors on attack back in Manly's half. Penalty count now sitting at 8-3 to the Warriors.
52 min: CROWD: Fantastic turnout here - 25,070
53 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Warriors Try...
53 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors 25,000 Warriors fans all cheer as one as George Gatis plants the ball down near the posts to put the Warriors further in front. Great set-up by Witt who threw the dummy, darted through a half gap, attracted two defenders then offloaded to Gatis for the spoils. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 18-10
55 min: With 25 minutes remaining, interchanges and fatigue will become a big issue for Manly as they only have four remaining, while the Warriors have seven plus a free interchange of Lauaki after King was put on report.
57 min: PENALTY GOAL New Zealand Warriors Rovelli intercepts a Monaghan pass on the halfway line and races away towards the Sea Eagles line before being tackled. Manly then give away the penalty for being offside and Michael Witt will add the extras New Zealand Warriors 20-10
59 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Dessie Hasler is going to have something to grizzle about after the game as the penalty count now sits at 10-3 to the Warriors after Afamasaga strips the ball with two in the tackle.
61 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Koopu scores another try, and yet again this one comes off the back of a scrum. Gatis darts down the blindside from the back of a scrum 10 out from the Sea Eagles line, passes to McKinnon who then passes quickly to Koopu who just bursts over the line at speed from close range. Michael Witt having a strange day with the boot, missing almost as many today as he's missed all season. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 24-10
63 min: Big let off for the Eagles as Rapira knocks on about one metre from the line.
65 min: TRY Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Manly finally get a roll on and catch the Warriors defence out out wide with Lyon taking full advantage of a 3 on 1 overlap. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon unsuccessful. New Zealand Warriors 24-14
67 min: PENALTY - Sea Eagles: The Eagles get just their fourth penalty of the match courtesy of a high tackle on Watmough, but throw it all away as their fail to find touch with the kick.
69 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Fien throws a lovely flat pass at the line to Mannering who strolls through a huge hole to score, and likely wrap this game up for the Warriors. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 30-14
71 min: Rovelli plays it smart and drills the ball into touch on the fifth tackle.
71 min: Manly cough the ball up on the first pass from the scrum, and invite the Warriors to pile more points on.
73 min: Manly really don't like having possession of the footy. After a nothing kick from Rovelli, Watmough cleans it up and throws a wayward pass that's cleaned up by Koopu.
75 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Manly at least held onto the ball for at least two tackles this time, but gave it all away when a long looping pass from Orford is plucked out of the air by Vatuvei who strolls over for one of the easiest tries of his career. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 36-14
76 min: Manly attempt the shallow restart and manage to get the ball back.
76 min: Absolutely fantastic try-saving tackle by Wade McKinnon. Travis Burns ran into a gaping hole at speed and looked certain to score until McKinnon chopped him down at the waist. McKinnon was then on hand two plays later to clean up a grubber that bounced off the goal post and save another try for his team. Outstanding stuff from the Warriors custodian.
80 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Sea Eagles Try...
80 min: NO TRY - 20 Metre Restart: Full credit to Manly, they kept trying right til the end, only for Chris Hicks to lose the ball over the line.
FULL TIME And it's full time here, with the Warriors running out convincing winners over Manly 36-14. The Warriors now find themselves back in the top 4, and should they win next week, would no doubt be playing here in front of another full house in two weeks time.