Another Anzac Day match in Melbourne, another thumping at the hands of the Storm.
After encouraging signs against the Dragons, this 42-20 loss emphasised the gulf between the Warriors and the big teams.
There were obvious mitigating factors, as injuries forced a massive reshuffle of the team before kick-off, but the Warriors were still below their best, after a promising start.
They had good periods at the beginning of both halves but the rest was fairly forgettable, with the Storm crossing for eight tries and going close to two or three more, before two late Ken Maumalo tries restored some pride for the makeshift Warriors team.
It was the Auckland club’s tenth successive defeat to the Storm, going back to July 2015.
Coach Nathan Brown made a huge call to grant Reece Walsh his NRL debut at fullback, moving captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to the wing. Rocco Berry was another debutant at centre, while Bayley Sironen filled a halves spot in the absence of Sean O’Sullivan. Vice-captain Tohu Harris was also ruled out, leaving a massive vacuum in the pack.
Walsh had some good moments, underlining his undoubted potential, but Tuivasa-Sheck looked a bit lost, playing on the flank for the first time since 2014.
The team missed his leadership and talk from the back, which contributed to the overall issues.
The game was all over after 30 minutes, when Reimis Smith crossed for the Storm’s fifth try, for a 26-4 scoreline.
After a stirring pre-match ceremony, it was a familiar anti-climax for those who hoped for a genuine contest.
As the Warriors were still introducing themselves, with so many positional changes, the Storm made a swift start.
After a Brandon Smith incursion, the home side found space down the right, with Jahrome Hughes sending George Jennings over in the third minute.
To their credit, the Warriors recovered their composure, and a neat Josh Curran pass sent Ken Maumalo tiptoeing down the sideline four minutes later.
But that was as close as things got. The Storm gradually wound up the intensity, though the momentum swung when Josh Curran was sinbinned in the 11th minute.
His shot on George Jennings looked legitimate, but the bunker’s intervention saw the second rower dismissed, even though you could fill a telephone book with worse indiscretions that have gone unpunished in the NRL.
The Warriors defended gamely during that period – only conceding one try to Felise Kaufusi – but used up valuable energy.
A rare Tuivasa-Sheck knock-on was the catalyst for a clinical Storm period, as they had seven out of eight sets, scoring three tries in six minutes.
Kodi Nikorima was targeted, but the entire left edge were unable to cope with Storm’s lethal mix of pace, precision and power.
Hughes was irresistible, laying on four tries, with wing Reimis Smith bagging a double.
Facing the Storm, you need the little things to go your way, but not much did in the first half. Aside from the Curran call, there were a couple of other questionable decisions from the officials.
On other occasions the Warriors were their own worst enemies, while the ball control that was so impressive against the Dragons deserted them in the AAMI Park cauldron.
The Warriors stemmed the bleeding early just after halftime, with Ben Murdoch-Masila crashing over from close range, after Walsh had put Curran in half a hole.
A Justin Olam try restored the margin, while the sight of Josh Addo-Carr going over untouched from a scrum set move was a tad embarrassing, before the wing scored a slashing try from broken play.
Walsh created two late tries for Maumalo – who notched his first career hat-trick – to add some respectability to the scoreline.
Storm 42 (G Jennings, F Kaufisi, N Hynes, R Smith 2, J Olam, J Addo-Carr 2 tries; C Munster 5 cons)
Warriors 20 (K Maumalo 3, B Murdoch-Masila tries; K Nikorima 2 cons)
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