Warriors blow big lead against Rabbitohs

Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the round five NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs is tackled during the round five NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the New Zealand Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
After five rounds of the NRL season, the picture isn't much clearer as to the Warriors' future in 2019.

They produced a brave performance on the Sunshine Coast today, and the last-gasp 28-24 loss to the Rabbitohs was a heart-breaker.

But at NRL level, courage and commitment aren't always enough.

You need to be smart and composed as well, and the Warriors lost their way in the final 18 minutes, giving up three tries as the Sydney side reeled in a 24-12 deficit.

Cody Walker grabbed four touchdowns, while Damien Cook's pace and sharpness out of dummy half was a constant threat.

The result leaves Stephen Kearney's team on four competition points — this time last year they were unbeaten — and with a tough series of matches coming in April and May.

To be fair to the Warriors, few would have expected them to get that close this afternoon. Especially when they lost Blake Green minutes before kickoff with a groin injury, while they also had specialist hooker Issac Luke off the field during the last quarter (concussion).

They were the kind of circumstances that many Warriors fans have been dreading since Shaun Johnson's shock exit was confirmed last November, leaving Green as the only experienced NRL half at Mt Smart.

The team coped relatively well, but it was a performance of fits and starts. In both halves they had periods of real momentum, but couldn't maintain their intensity and focus.

When they got going the potential was obvious, but learning to compete when the chips are down is vital, and they were burned by a 67 per cent completion rate.

They still have defensive issues – especially on the right edge – which was relentlessly targeted by the Rabbitohs.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was again outstanding, topping 200 running metres and two line breaks, while the forwards muscled up to match their much vaunted opposites. Harris-Tavita produced a mature display, given the situation. Sure, there was a couple of errors, but he showed enough to warrant hope for the future.

The Warriors were rocked by the loss of Green, and the reshuffle saw Peta Hiku move into the halves and Gerard Beale getting his first start of the season at centre.

Considering that setback, they started well enough.

Tuivasa-Sheck grabbed an impressive early solo try in the 15th minute, jinking through the Rabbitohs defence after cutting back against the grain.

Souths hit back with a slightly fortuitous try from a Walker miskick, and from their next set, Cook cut the Warriors defence to shreds and Walker strolled over for his second.

It looked ominous, but the Warriors found some resolve late in the half. They rolled up field in waves, and were rewarded with Jazz Tevaga's try, after a smart Lachlan Burr offload.

The Warriors took the initiative early in the second half as Tohu Harris crossed, before they manufactured the try of the match in the 51st minute — finished off by Lisone — after a move that featured three offloads and some brilliant second phase play.

But they couldn't put the foot on the throat. Instead they seemed to tire, making three consecutive errors on attacking sets at one stage, and Ethan Lowe and Walker profited down the left edge with tries.

Both teams had late drop goal attempts, before Walker skipped past two defenders to dive over and seal the Rabbitohs comeback.

Rabbitohs 28 (C Walker 4, E Lowe tries; A Reynolds 4 goals)
Warriors 24 (R Tuivasa-Sheck, J Tevaga, T Harris, S Lisone tries; C Harris-Tavita 4 goals)
Halftime: 12-12

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