Warriors go down in fighting loss; several players still set to return home

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Warriors lost a close contest 16-12 to the Titans Friday night on the Gold Coast, after having a try controversially disallowed by the bunker shortly before half-time.

The Warriors raced out to a 12-0 lead with two quick tries in the first 10 minutes, the first after four minutes to fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who ghosted between two defenders to touch down and the second to winger Ken Maumalo who scored in the corner on nine minutes after an offload from Peta Hiku.

The Titans pulled one back on 20 minutes with Anthony Don stepping inside Karl Lawton to score. 

The Warriors came close to regaining their two-try advantage 10 minutes before the break but were denied a touch down to loan forward Jack Hetherington after he was ruled to have pushed Titans player Jamal Fogarty before grounding the ball.

The outcome of the game might have been different had the bunker not ruled the try out, however, Warriors coach Todd Payten was not making excuses. 

"I didn't agree with it but if I was on the flip side of that in the other box, of course, I'd agree with it."

Not everyone was as diplomatic, however, with Phil Gould labelling the decision a 'disgrace'. "That is a disgraceful call. The game is not in slow motion. That is just horrible."

After missing out on that key decision, the Warriors were unable to get a look in on the scoreboard in the second half with Sam Stone and Beau Fermor both grabbing tries for the Titans.

"I thought we started well. I was very disappointed that, I just thought we softened a little bit after the 12-nil start with some guys missing their assignments defensively," said Payten.

Although the Warriors showed more defensive backbone, the Warriors coach said the team just needs to keep fighting.

"We are where we are, we’re fighting like we’re fighting. We just have to keep fighting till it turns."

Payten confirmed that several Warriors players are still set to leave the team and return to New Zealand after next Sunday's game against the Sharks.

“Yeah, at the moment they are. I’ve given my word that if we don’t have a clear outcome from the government and the NRL then they can go home."

Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu'a and Agnatius Paasi have all signalled they would return home if their families were not permitted to join them in Australia and last night Payten said King Vuniyayawa had also expressed a wish to head back to New Zealand.

Payten acknowledged that this would put pressure on the remaining players but said the team were focused on the job.

“It’ll put pressure on us but at the end of the day, for the reasons they need to go back, they have to go back.

"There’s a bit of clarity for us, we’ve all got our heads around the fact we’re not going home. With everything that’s happening in Victoria and more (Covid-19) outbreaks, we’re not going home. So I think we’ve got our heads around it. (We) saw it in the performance and the effort tonight. A month ago if something like that went against us, we’d just fall to pieces. Tonight, we showed some resilience and we fought.”

Payten said the team are working hard not just for each other but for everyone back home.

“I’ve been hard on them in terms of effort and what’s required. They need to work hard for the bloke beside them, (I've) put a big emphasis on playing for everyone back home. I think they’ve taken that on board.”  

The Warriors are currently 12th on the NRL ladder with the Broncos and St George below them still to complete the round.