Broncos prove too strong for Warriors in preliminary final

The Broncos were too strong for the Warriors in the preliminary final in Brisbane last night....
The Broncos were too strong for the Warriors in the preliminary final in Brisbane last night. Photo: Getty Images
In time, this Warriors season will be celebrated long and loud – but last night's effort will hurt. A lot.

When you get a chance to perform on the biggest stage, you want to bring your best, and the Auckland club couldn’t do that in the NRL preliminary final on Saturday night.

They didn’t get close.

There was plenty of courage but they were outplayed, outgunned, outclassed and outthought by a red-hot Brisbane side, eventually falling 42-12.

It was a thrilling contest – crazy at times – with seven tries in the first half alone, in front of a capacity 52,273 crowd. But the Warriors couldn’t find their groove; they struggled to get into the grind, struggled with first-up contact and to shut down the offloads. They also played without luck, losing Wayde Egan and Dylan Walker for extended periods for head injury assessments and fell victim to a couple of rough calls.

But the visitors never really settled; they were frantic and couldn’t get into the grind, while some players struggled with the occasion. Essentially, the match was lost midway through the first half. Leading 8-6, and right in the contest, they conceded three tries in an awful seven-minute period, momentarily losing their heads and their defensive structure, and found themselves 24-8 down.

It didn’t help that Adam Reynolds was peerless from the tee, while Pompey missed three conversions, albeit all from out wide. Former Warrior Reece Walsh had a night to remember, tormenting his old club, with three try assists and a hand in three more, while Reynolds was in control behind a dominant pack.

Earlier, the Warriors made a dream start, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crossing in the fourth minute. It was a well-worked move – making space on the right edge – after a Broncos error gifted them possession. But Brisbane hit back immediately after the pace of Walsh set Selwyn Cobbo free down the right before Billy Walters dived over from dummy half. It had the makings of a classic when Watene-Zelezniak grabbed his intercept, anticipating a Walsh long pass, for a 70-metre snatch and go.

That took the Warriors back into the lead but not for long, with Walsh showing his maturity to set up Herbie Farnworth five minutes later, with Watene-Zelezniak this time getting his read wrong.

The Warriors were falling into a hole, with Payne Haas sprinting 50m through the ruck. From the ensuing chaos, the Broncos went left again, for an almost carbon copy. Watene-Zelezniak again jumped the gun and Brisbane took advantage, with Jesse Arthars eventually crossing in the corner.

There was more pain soon afterward; Brisbane were playing touch football, while the visitors were on their heels, unable to maintain their line speed or stop the second phase. A perfect offload saw Walsh slash into space again– accelerating like he was on rails – before sending Walters under the posts.

Just as it was starting to look terminal, the Warriors then found a way to stem the flow. They held strong, then manufactured a brilliant try to Marcelo Montoya. The Broncos went close again though, denied by a cruel bounce of a perfect Reynolds chip. Only a brilliant tackle by Te Maire Martin on Jordan Riki stopped further damage just after the break before a Farnworth try was called back.

But just as the Warriors started to get some momentum, it was undone by another Walsh break, though the officials missed two forward passes, before Jordan Riki finished the move. That killed any hope, before the sinbinning of Adam Pompey for obstructing a runner led the Ezra Mam’s try and confirmed the result, before Farnworth added to the misery late.

Warriors 12 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2, Marcelo Montoya tries)

Broncos 42 (Billy Walters 2, Herbie Farnworth 2, Jesse Arthurs, Jordan Riki, Ezra Mam tries; Adam Reynolds 6, Reece Walsh goals)

HT: 12-24