THE adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" almost came back to haunt the Warriors. It didn't, thanks to a stoic second-half defensive display and a late offensive outburst. But for a good portion of the victory over the Newcastle Knights, the recall of Shaun Berrigan to the centres in place of Lewis Brown looked to have sunk the Warriors.
In the absence of Ukuma Tai'i, who was back in New Zealand on compassionate grounds, Berrigan returned two weeks ahead of the initial six-week timetable set down for recovery from his broken hand.
Coach Ivan Cleary insisted Berrigan's heavily strapped hand had been given the all-clear by the club's medical staff, but for the 51 minutes he was on the field he used it primarily to wave marauding Knights on through the Warriors' defensive line.
His first two missed tackles led to two long-range Knights first-half tries. His third, on rookie Marvin Filipo after he had switched from left centre to right to escape Wes Naiqama, led to Cleary hooking him off the field.
Cleary insisted Berrigan was partially the victim of the under-performance of those around him.
"I just think we were struggling in the middle," Cleary said. "We weren't dominating any go-forward and as a result they were lethal on the edge and he got showed up a couple of times. I'm sure he will bounce back."
With Brown suffering a knee injury of as yet undiagnosed severity, Berrigan's bounce back will probably have to come sooner rather than later. Certainly the veteran Australian wasn't the only player off his game yesterday, with Feleti Mateo also culpable on the opening Knights try, leaving a yawning gap that rookie five-eighth Tyrone Roberts strolled through. The overall impression was of a Warriors side struggling physically and mentally after four away matches in five weeks.
"We were a fair way down on what we normally expect," Cleary said. "We just weren't playing well. You end up getting on the merry-go-round and chasing them around. Until we got some sort of control defensively it was going to be a long afternoon. The only way we were going to get out of it was to sort out our defence and that proved the case in the second half.
"But to get away with a win after a tough schedule over the last month, and being a bit below our best, was pretty satisfying."
The Knights scored three first-half tries to the Warriors' two to lead 16-12 at the break. But despite a mountain of possession against them the Warriors held firm in the second half and sealed the win with tries to James Maloney and Lance Hohaia's second of the match.
The win - their sixth in seven matches - moved the Warriors into sixth place.
They now play South Sydney at home on Sunday before sitting out round 13 with a bye.
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