The New Zealand Warriors were handed their worst defeat in club history when they went down to the Melbourne Storm 70-10 on Monday night in their annual ANZAC Day clash at AAMI Park.
Both teams started with strong performances and the Warriors, who hadn’t won this clash since 2014, were putting the pressure on the Storm early and were going to make them earn their points.
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy described the first half as an “arm wrestle”.
Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes was the first to get over the line in the 7th minute with a 70 metre dash down the field after Warriors winger Ed Kosi dropped the ball which saw Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen scoop it up and off load to Hughes.
It was 20 minutes later that the Storm found themselves over the line again after winger Nick Meaney intercepted a pass from Shaun Johnson who had Justin Olam rushing at him to put on the pressure while he attempted to pass to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
The Warriors got points on the board in the 13th minute when DWZ scored off a beautiful pass from Chanel Harris-Tavita, and again in the 30th minute through Wayde Egan when Shaun Johnson kicked the ball.
The ball bounced awkwardly so the Storm players couldn’t regather it, but Egan could.
At this point it was a close game, and some may have even been discussing a potential upset by the visitors.
The Warriors didn’t have much luck on the injury front, losing second-rower Josh Curran just 2 minutes into the second half with a suspected PCL/MCL injury.
Curran was assisted from the field by 2 trainers as he struggled to put weight on the leg, and it looks like he will be on the sidelines for quite a few weeks.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was another casualty, taken from the field on the medi-cab after colliding with teammate Bailey Sironen and then falling into the knee of prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, who moments prior had put up a surprising bomb for Papenhuyzen to score.
As NAS ran towards the in goal to celebrate with teammates, he was seen trying to leap over DWZ to avoid colliding with him, only for his knee to make contact with his face, knocking DWZ unconscious.
There was good news with DWZ conscious and talking in the dressing room post-match, and was believed to free of any facial fractures or serious injury, just a nasty concussion.
He won’t play in this weekend’s game as he is put through the HIA protocols.
Warrior Aaron Pene will also miss this weekend’s match, suspended for 1 week after high contact on Reimis Smith that resulted in Smith leaving the field for an HIA and not returning for the rest of the night due to failing those tests.
Ed Kosi will be absent from the line-up, omitted this week, with wingers Rocco Berry & Viliami Vailea both returning into the side along with forward Bailey Sironen. Eli Katoa and Jack Murchie are named on the bench to make their returns.
When Warriors coach Nathan Brown was asked if he thought the players had given up, he answered “some people did, I’ve got no doubt at all.
“It’s disappointing to actually sit here and say that but some people looked for the easiest way out they could and that’s sad.”
While Brown was disappointed in the way the score line blew out, he made it clear that not everyone was to blame.
“That’s not a reflection of all the players – we had some that worked extremely hard and put themselves on the line.”
While Brown also said that changes would be made and discussions would be had, he said he wouldn’t be mentioning his plans to the media.
Ryan Papenhuyzen took home the ANZAC medal, scoring 22 solo points and playing 68 minutes before being rested when the game was all but won by Melbourne.
Coach Craig Bellamy was happy with his team’s performance, saying, “it was a really dominant performance and I’m really happy with the outcome and the performance of our players.”
He also acknowledged that the Warriors had a challenging second half.
“The Warriors had a lot of things go wrong the second half and obviously with those injuries, I don’t think they had anyone on the bench,” Bellamy said.
Melbourne play the Newcastle Knights in Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, while the Warriors return to Redcliffe to take on the Canberra Raiders on Saturday afternoon.
MELBOURNE STORM 70 TRIES: J. Hughes 2, X. Coates 4, N. Meaney 2, R. Papenhuyzen 2, H. Grant, J. Bromwich, J. Olam GOALS: 7/13 R. Papenhuyzen 5, N. Meaney 2 PENALTY GOALS: R. Papenhuyzen 2/2
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 10 TRIES: D. Watene-Zelezniak, W. Egan GOALS: R. Walsh 1/2
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: R. Papenhuyzen (MEL), X. Coates (MEL), J. Olam (MEL), R. Walsh (WAR), M. Lodge (WAR), A. Fonua-Blake (WAR)