The best way to bounce back from a loss – particularly one as harrowing as the Warriors’ second-half collapse at Penrith last week – is to get out on the park again and put in a strong performance, and they get that opportunity tonight against St George Illawarra in Hamilton.
Shaun Johnson said that while the team was gutted with the nature of their defeat to the Panthers, the Warriors have confronted it and moved on.
“We came in (on Tuesday) and had a pretty honest session, watched the video and spoke about a few things,” Johnson told Commentary Box Sports.
“For us now it was about addressing that and moving forward because it’s a short turnaround to play on Friday against a Dragons side, which we know is going to be a tough game.
“Look, it’s definitely disappointing how things turned out for us, but we’re just looking to improve this weekend.”
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 18, 2017
The Warriors watched their 28-6 halftime lead evaporate to fall behind just 17 minutes after the resumption as the fired-up Panthers ran in four quick unanswered tries. Starved of possession and territory, the Warriors belatedly stemmed the flood of points but were unable to muster a reply before ultimately going down 36-28.
Johnson said his side was not satisfied with any aspects of the performance, despite enjoying scoreboard dominance for half the game.
“For us in terms of standard of footy, I don’t think there’s too many positives to take out of it,” the halfback explained.
“We lured ourselves into a false sense of security with the scoreboard at halftime – the way we played in the first half was pretty soft still.
“We got lucky with a few tries, they got (Waqa Blake) sent off for 10 minutes, which we were able to capitalise on.
“So we scored some tries but I definitely think the intention and mentality and how we approached the game was off, and that’s what we spoke about as a group and we want to correct that.”
The anti-climax of the biggest collapse in the club’s history was matched only be the extreme reaction of Warriors supporters and the New Zealand media, with videos of ‘fans’ burning their jerseys and radio talkback hysteria dominating social media feeds and the airwaves for the next couple of days.
The backlash rankles with Johnson, given the way the Warriors had performed in their previous five games – strong wins over Gold Coast, Parramatta and Sydney Roosters at home, and gallant away losses to Canberra and Melbourne.
Not that the No.7 wizard isn’t used to it.
“(The reaction) was disappointing. It shows that, for us, things are never as good as what they seem and on the flipside they’re never as bad as they seem,” he mused.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback over the last few weeks about how this team has been building – and that’s from the public, from the people that have reacted so badly to how we played (against the Panthers).
“We understand that there is a lot of passion and a lot of belief, and a lot of people out there wanting this club to do well. But it is disappointing to see some of the response to one poor performance.
“This group and this club and our circle know the direction we’re heading in and we know how we’re building our season.
“Over the last month or so we’ve been heading in the right direction with some of our performances, so we need to start getting back to that and let our football do all the talking.”
With one unwanted club record only six days old, the Warriors must now overcome a couple of baffling hoodoos if they’re to get back on track with a win over the Saints.
The Warriors have won just one of their last 13 clashes with the Dragons (and a measly five of 25 overall), while they’ve only prevailed once in 15 games against the joint venture away from Mt Smart Stadium.
The club is also 0-3 at Waikato Stadium, and have amassed a shocking record of just six wins, a draw and 20 losses in 27 matches at alternate New Zealand venues – which includes defeats to the Dragons at Eden Park and Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Everything you need to know about the rivalry. #NRLWarriorsDragons
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 19, 2017