Two disappointing losses followed by a trip to the golden west. Would it be the golden result we so badly need?
Footy is about attitude every week, but none more so than in this match where our season was, well not quite on the line, but not far away from it.
A tense and torrid start saw the Warriors intent on using their massive size. There's some big brutes in that line up and we soon knew it would be a very physical contest. The simple things are so critical and despite some glimpses of opportunities we let ourselves down when Taufua failed to grab a high ball gifting the Warriors possession and the opening try. 6-0 down after 9 minutes.
On the 17 minute mark a high dangerous ball was piloted out to Wolfman's wing, but he stood and watched Vatuvei leap uncontested to set up the Warriors 2nd try. Yes Vatuvei is a difficult customer for anyone to stop, but you do have to make more of an effort than stand and watch him. 12-0 down.
Both teams had by now suffered what looked like serious injuries, first the Hulk Hurrell hobbled off minus a boot, and then disturbingly Jason King appeared to suffer a serious rib or sternum injury, ultimately being carted to hospital.
Two mistakes had gifted the Warriors a 12 point start, but after blowing chances to peg it back to 12-6, we made the fatal error of gifting the Warriors yet another try on the back of a Lussick spill. 32 mins gone and now a death rattling 18-0. Against most teams that would seem terminal, but hey this is the Warriors, and only last week they blew the very same 18 point lead at home.
Right on half time Foran used his brilliant footy brain to direct an attacking kick in our half way out wide to Taufua's wing, and the more than alert flier was right onto it picking up the bounce and scorching brilliantly down the line to fend off two tackle attempts and race 50 metres to score a hugely important try. An 18-6 half time score sounded a truck load better than 18-0, particularly given we couldn't surely play any worse than this in the 2nd half.
Key of course was scoring first. Sadly though that theory was yet again thrown away with more terrible errors. Wolfman spilling a simple kick and the hibernating T Rex letting go a truly horrible pass directly to the Warriors. Vatuvei capitalised scoring in the left corner and just like that it was 22-6. Surely game over?
The next 11 minutes didn't look any better. Half chances not taken, attack disjointed, runners drifting across field looking for who knows what to go nowhere, and sadly the Brett Stewart missile sitting on the bench in a track suit.
Finally though Jamie Lyon put on one of his brilliantly simple in and away carving moves to send Wolfman over untouched in the corner. 22-10, but the important conversion missed.
More torrid play ensued but again we wasted opportunities as the minutes ticked away. This had all the headlines of another sloppy performance and a season gone to waste.
68 minutes down and with it almost all hope, but a fast thinking left side move sees the busy Matai take off to fly through a gap before back flicking a stunning ball to sling shot the brilliantly backing up Foran over untouched. TRY! Ok this conversion was even bigger. 22-16 would put us right back in it. Mr Cool Jamie lined it up but just as it looked set to sneak through it drifted a nats left into the upright. With a 22-14 score you couldn't help but wonder if the 8 point gap would be a bridge just too far.
But the Warriors had gone from cruise control to suddenly sporting that deathly haunted look on their faces. Conversely we had a massive spring in our step. Our ineffective attack of the last few weeks was suddenly looking dangerous, each set carving metres at will to gain hugely vital territory. Buhrer's dummy half injection was proving a handy poison, zipping away for effective metres and in the process setting up quick play the balls. I wasn't keen on this positional tactic last week but it was looking a smart one here.
Our left side was ruling the roost, Matai terrorising the Warriors at every opportunity, giving the clearly ailing Hurrell (who shocked everyone with his return) and his right side team mates a nightmare in defence. The Warriors were wilting in the west, and critically there was still time. We just had to persist, and more than anything we had to believe.
Another left side raid saw Foran, having the second half we've all been waiting for, plug through a tantalising grubber to find vacant real estate, and with multiple players all converging at once DCE plucked the ball in a miraculous hit and spin, suddenly realising he'd been set loose to dart like a rabbit for the left corner, plunging the ball down like a seasoned winger for a remarkable try. 22-18 and another key conversion, but for the 3rd time Jamie's effort swung wide meaning we had to score yet another try to win it.
If the Warriors had looked haunted with 12 minutes to go, they looked positively frozen with fear now, yet despite that the minutes were conspiring to beat us. Something truly remarkable would be needed, and right on cue in the 78th minute Foran tried his luck one more time. A mid field chip lobbed over the top into a perfect left edge hole and Taufua poured through like lightning to take the perfect bounce. With defence flying in for the crash tackle, Taufua somehow miraculously lobbed a miracle ball over their heads, missing Ballin altogether, but somehow like a dream lobbing perfectly into a flying DCE's arms who steadied then hit the pedal to scorch over for surely the Manly try of the year. Jamie might have missed the previous 3 conversion, but he was never going to miss this one, and suddenly we led 24-22 with two heart stopping minutes on the clock.
The Warriors regained from the kick off, and threw some hail mary passes to give us all a last minute heart attack, but the final play sprayed over the dead ball line and our win of the year was sealed. 24-22. Footy sure is a funny game, from a first half of despair, to a result we might need to check a few times to be sure really did happen. Thank you sporting gods.
Dean Whare: With zero tackles rarely called upon in defence, but solid all night bringing back the ball.
Jorge Taufau: One mistake early on, but an absolute whale of a game using his considerable speed to score one and set up the match winning final try.
Steve Matai: Never put a foot wrong and gave the Warriors hell in the 2nd half down the left. How good was that bullet flick pass.
Jamie Lyon: Not a night with the boot, but how sweet it is to say it didn't matter. Beautiful in and away to ignite the 2nd half scoring blitz.
David Williams: Not his best night including a howler drop ball in the 2nd half, but there when he was needed to plant the try that started the comeback.
Keiran Foran: Man of the Match. 3 match winning kicks for 3 match winning tries, plus scored one himself from the sensational Stevie flick pass.
Daly Cherry-Evans: Just when we were lamenting his lost form, DCE backs up for the two final beautiful tries. Golden.
Glenn Stewart: All the better for another run, and will be even better in the run home.
Tony Williams: Gotta say it, another lazy looking performance, just 12 runs and 15 tackles. What goes on?
Anthony Watmough: The usual non stop 80 minute effort, but Toovs please get Anthony to run straighter. The so called chicken wing? Nothing in it for mine.
Jason King: Spent the second half in hospital, but we can only hope the comeback win of our season eases the no doubt considerable pain. Pray he's ok.
Matt Ballin: Non stop high energy game, 44 bruising tackles, and a well timed mini break thrown in.
Brent Kite: The best forward on the field, with Kingy gone stepping up for 16 runs and 137 bullucking metres plus a tough and determined 28 tackles.
Jamie Buhrer: Superb dummy half cameo. Is this his new role? Do we want this? I dunno either but it was great tonight.
Joe Guluvao: Hard working effort from the bench helping Kite step up for Kingy.
Darcy Lussick: Still hasn't taken that step up into the big frame, and one wonders if its in there?
George Rose: Just 4 runs, what's going on? If George is not up to it surely we'd be better of with Mauro or Harrison.
After two contrasting but equally very disappointing losses, we forced the football gods to give us some air time. Belief is so key and we never gave up.
Another diabolical first half, the 3rd in a row, a pattern that won't get us past the Cowboys or Souths.
Kingy's injury concern. Let's hope it's not season ending.
Three tablespoons of attacking luck mixed with a dose of Warriors choke, but nonetheless a season changing moment. Perhaps our seemingly dead top 4 aspirations are still somehow alive and kicking. A very tough away road lies ahead, but we've proved yet again we're a team that can turn around any match, when that is we show we really want it. We've really missed Brett, and his comeback will be more than a big relief in our tough quest to win the next two tough away matches. Bagging those two results would set up a fantastic Sunday arvo opportunity to erase the Knights pain.