For the Sea Eagles, this was a considerable step backwards in their top-four aspirations. They lost centre Brad Parker after 20 minutes and Morgan Boyle to a head knock in the second half, but even so, this was a dreadful performance from them, with three late tries flattering them.
Warriors CEO Cameron George said during the week he wanted the team to earn back the respect from their fans after last Friday’s loss to the Raiders.
Well they did that and more, with a complete reversal in commitment and attitude from the players over a space of seven days.
Given the performance in the 46-12 loss to the Raiders last week, there couldn’t have been much optimism from the small crowd of 9595 who braved the bad weather to come along.
However, this has been a season where the Warriors been at their best when written off. Remember the incredible performance against the Storm in round seven when they had so many key players out?
It was one of those incoming players on Friday night that was the real stand-out. Chanel Harris-Tavita, who was in for Kodi Nokorima at five-eighth, had the game of his life, setting up two first-half tries and also putting in a monster tackle on Tom Trbojevic.
Harris-Tavita had the golden touch with whatever he did and it will be tough for Nikorima to force his way back in the team once he’s over his shoulder injury.
From the start, the Warriors seemed more energised on defence, with Adam Blair and Peta Hiku both making big early tackles to stop the Sea Eagles making ground with their sets.
Good defence led to good attack, with Harris-Tavita putting a wonderful cross field kick to Ken Maumalo, who just managed to stay infield before grounding the ball for a try.
After that, the Warriors stood up with their goal-line defence and in the 22nd minute had their second try.
Ligi Sao, who was enjoying a rare promotion from the NSW Cup team, caught a loose ball that was flicked up by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck near the Sea Eagles’ line, then ran in to score.
Five minutes later Maumalo had his second, again managing to sneak inside the left corner flag.
In the final minute of the half, Harris-Tavita kicked a penalty to give his team a more than surprising 18-0 lead at the break.
With that big lead, the Warriors didn’t need to play high-risk footy over the second 40 minutes, but although they did make more mistakes than they would have wanted, the Sea Eagles still weren’t able to be at their best and made sloppy errors.
With 12 minutes to go, Adam Blair was sent to the bin for taking out Manase Fainu when he was deemed to have a try-scoring opportunity to ground the ball in-goal and straight after Joel Thompson finally got his team on the board.
Five minutes later Reuben Garrick finished off a back-line move for the Sea Eagles’ second try and his conversion made it an eight-point game.
It really became squeaky bum time when Garrick scored a breakaway try two minutes later and landed the extras again.
However, fears of a horrendous Warriors collapse were allayed when Jazz Tevaga crashed over with two minutes to go and the Warriors picked up their first win at Mt Smart Stadium in more than four months.
New Zealand Warriors 24 (K Maumalo 2, L Sao, J Tevaga tries; C Harris-Tavita 4 goals) bt Manly Sea Eagles 16 (J Thompson, R Garrick 2 tries; Garrick 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referees: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski.