Josh Reynolds

It was not an easy week nor lead-up for the New Zealand Warriors heading into their clash with the Canterbury Bulldogs and it was not the finish they were after, either, as a last-minute Trent Hodkinson field goal gave the Bulldogs a 1-point win.

In front of more than 22,000 fans at Eden Park, they were treated to a narrow and closely-fought contest, before Hodkinson stepped up and slotted a field goal to give the Dogs a 21-20 win.

Statistically, it could have been argued that the Dogs were the better side but despite fighting valiantly, they only managed to grab the lead in the 78th minute.

Goal-kicking ultimately let the Warriors down, with Shaun Johnson missing 2 crucial conversions – a factor that was ultimately telling.

An old combination for a new club emerged with Sam Tomkins and Thomas Leuluai – familiar with each other from their days at the Wigan Warriors – combining for an early try.

Perhaps the crucial move for the Warriors, though, came with the decision to move Ben Matulino into the back-row. Firing on all cylinders, he got his team going and was proving a handful for the Bulldogs defence at times.

Hodkinson – called ‘Hokko’ by his team-mates – was praised by coach Des Hasler for his composure under pressure late in the game.

“He did a great job for us there,” Hasler said.

“Hokko has been in good form this year, he has been in that situation before and he is that kind of player that is pretty composed, always cool and calm and always seems to have plenty of time with it.”

Captain Michael Ennis was also quick to praise Hodkinson for his efforts as well as halves partner Josh Reynolds.

“He (Hodkinson) is a very calm and composed guy, he has been like that for a number of years now,” Ennis said.

“He is a very controlled player and his combination with (Reynolds) is fantastic, and they are getting better and better each week.”

For the Warriors, it was not a fairytale start for new coach Andrew McFadden, with the club left to rue missed opportunities that could have won them the game, had they been executed.

“We only had to make one less mistake and we probably would have got there,” McFadden said.

“It is very disappointing, obviously. I think the players threw everything they could, but ultimately I think we let ourselves down with execution.”

Their cause was not helped by injuries to Sebastine Ikahihifo (concussion) and Ben Matulino (ribs).

“It certainly had a big impact on our strategy around our interchanges, but Sam Rapira and Jacob Lillyman did a pretty good job of making up that time that we needed, so it certainly wasn’t an excuse for getting beat,” McFadden said.

Despite the loss, though, newly re-signed captain Simon Mannering said things are looking positive for the Warriors.

“It would have been nice to get a result but it’s good we made steps forward in our performance,” the second-rower said.

“Hopefully we can see that in training next week ahead of the Dragons game.

3. Josh Reynolds
2. Konrad Hurrell
1. Sam Perrett

By ricky