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Webster: Our first 20 minutes was outstanding

One New Zealand Warriors head coach Andrew Webster found plenty to like but equally much he was less impressed with in Friday night’s season-opening 12-16 loss to Cronulla Sutherland at a packed Go Media Stadium.

The home side made a hot start with tries to Addin Fonua-Blake and Luke Metcalf inside the opening 12 minutes, dominating field position and possession, to take a 12-0 lead.

But the Warriors faltered just before and straight after halftime conceding tries which would alter the complexion of the contest.

“Our first 20 minutes was outstanding, our style of play, what we were doing, making them come out of corners,” said Webster.

“I thought our attack was simple and fast but we then gave away yardage penalties, two for offside and two for getting the ruck wrong after a kick chase, and we invited them back into the game.

“The period after halftime was really poor. Our defence and ruck control just wasn’t good enough but we gathered ourselves and started attacking with our defence, making them come off their line and forced a couple of errors but then we were clunky (in attack), didn’t have the right timing. We were fatigued after all that possession they had after halftime.”

After tries to centre Jesse Ramien in the 34th minute and Kiwi winger Ronaldo Mulitalo in the opening minute of the second half, the Sharks cut the lead to 10-12 before going ahead 16-12 through a Siosifa Talakai try in the 57th minute.

The One New Zealand Warriors worked their way back into the battle in the last quarter but were unable to finish opportunities to snatch victory.

“We were trying really hard to win it with a big play instead of just trying to get our flow on the way we like to do it,” said Webster.

“We had enough ball at the end to win it but we didn’t set it up well enough before halftime and after halftime.

“I felt like we were losing momentum because we weren’t communicating, we weren’t running the right lines and we didn’t know what we were doing at times but we’ll fix that. We’ve got lots to get better at.”

Captain Tohu Harris echoed Webster’s thoughts.

“We kept hurting ourselves. We’d do some good things but then we’d lose concentration for one or two plays a set and all of a sudden they’ve got momentum and they’re rolling downfield,” he said.

The One New Zealand Warriors were ahead on so many measures, possession favouring them 54 per cent to 46 per cent and completing at 81 per cent (36 from 44) to Cronulla’s 76 per cent (29 from 38). They ran 1968 metres to the Sharks 1467, made 34 tackle breaks to 19, forced five line drop outs to none and had a superior effective tackle rate.

Attention now turns to their first away game of the season against the Storm in Melbourne next Saturday night (.9.35pm kick-off NZT).

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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