Warriors plug the leaks and reap rewards - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors plug the leaks and reap rewards

By Robert Lowe 13/07/2008 01:38:45 PM Comments (0)

Coach Ivan Cleary is liking what he sees as the New Zealand Warriors continue to shore up what was a major frailty in the early half of their NRL season.

The Warriors took their time before subduing struggling North Queensland in Auckland on Saturday night, with the scoreboard being close for much of the encounter.

It needed a Micheal Luck try seven minutes from time to seal a 24-14 victory over the league's bottom club.

But Cleary said he felt for much of the contest that his players would finish on top.

"I thought we were going to win it, most of the game, to be honest," he said.

"I thought we controlled things really well."

A key reason was the Warriors' defensive effort which, apart from a couple of costly blemishes, left Cleary satisfied.

While the Warriors still have one of the biggest points-against tallies in the competition, they have managed to avoid leaking the 30-plus points a game they once did with regularity.

"I think our defence has been pretty good over the last month," Cleary said.

"We're still conceding tries kind of softly. Apart from that, our defence has certainly improved from earlier in the year."

The result over the Cowboys kept the Warriors in touch with the top eight, but Cleary indicated that the focus was less on the playoffs than on simply building momentum.

"If we get that, the rest will come," he said.

For North Queensland, defeat continued their nightmare run and took their losing streak to a club record-equalling 10 matches in a row.

But the Cowboys, who haven't won since beating the Warriors 48-20 in Townsville in April, produced a gutsy performance at Mt Smart Stadium.

Halfback Johnathan Thurston, despite battling fatigue after his State of Origin heroics, was the driving force for the visitors, who were depleted by injury and suspension but kept plugging away until the end.

"It's a shame we couldn't get a victory for him," lock Steve Southern said of his skipper.

"As you can see, he just tried his heart out."

Southern said the spirit within the Cowboys remained upbeat, but they just weren't getting that bit of luck that all teams needed.

After the final whistle, the Warriors honoured prop Ruben Wiki, who was appearing at home for the first time since racking up 300 first-grade matches.

Wiki achieved the triple century in the 28-26 win over Wests Tigers in Sydney, becoming the 10th player, and first New Zealander, to reach the milestone.

Two former Warriors, Dean Bell and Stacey Jones, who like Wiki both captained the Kiwis, presented him with the jersey he wore against the Tigers.

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