After setting the competition benchmark for six weeks, the previously undefeated Dragons have suffered their first loss of the season to the Warriors, going down 20-12 at Mt Smart Stadium. Here's are five things we learned from the game.
1. Undefeated streak over
They had been near-perfect in the opening six rounds of the NRL season in 2018 but the Dragons have finally suffered their first loss of the season. Seemingly out-willed by a Warriors team that just appeared to want it more, the Dragons didn't take advantage of their chances despite dominating the penalty count for much of the game. However, despite the loss it was still a respectable performance from the Dragons, a loss - and a deserved one, but they don't look like losing will destabilize and derail their season as it did last year.
For the Warriors, they proved that their flat performance last week wasn't the beginning of the end of their newfound 2018 form, bouncing back in fantastic fashion to dominate the Dragons. Stephen Kearney will sleep sound tonight.
2. No Johnson no worries, again
Much like a few weeks ago against the Roosters, many pundits were willing to draw a line through the Warriors when they heard their dynamic halfback, Shaun Johnson, wouldn't be playing. However, much like their match against the Roosters, back-up halfback, Mason Lino rose to the challenge. Lino allowed Blake Green to play his structured and controlled style and complimented it much the way Johnson does, running and taking on the line at every opportunity, no more so than the first try of the night, in which Lino scooped up the ball from around his ankles, stepped past Gareth Widdop and raced into score.
Without Johnson, the senior players for the Warriors really stood up, fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ran for over 200 meters and looked dangerous with every touch. The much improved New Zealand hooker, Issac Luke also aimed up, contributing a 40/20 followed by a try.
3. Fus' flies high
What a start to the season Warriors winger, David Fusitu'a has had so far this year. While we were already well-acquainted with his attacking ability to leap high and score tries, we demonstrated that his skills aren't limited to attack. The Dragons halves put Fusitu'a under all sorts of pressure, but the young winger wasn't fazed, launching himself into the air to make every catch we needed to. With his aerial ability and notably topping the try scorers count for this season, Fusitu'a could be an early contender for winger of the year.
4. Gelling to break the curse?
With the exception of Gareth Widdop, the history of backline players that have been able to make the leap from the English Super League to the NRL is poor to say the least, however, could former Wigan Warrior Anthony Gelling be the one to break this curse? Gelling had a standout game against the Dragons, running 103 meters, breaking four tackles and scoring a try, he didn't hide in defense either, amassing 19 tackles from the centre position. While he was filling in for Solomone Kata this week, Gelling has created a bit of a selection headache for coach Kearney.
5. Hunt continues to press Origin claim
Although the Queensland halves are among the most hotly contested positions in Rugby League this year. With Michael Morgan and Cameron Munster seemingly having a lock on the positions it was going to take a Queenslander to really shine to be a chance at the Origin area and Ben Hunt has done just that this year. Hunt has become the form Queensland half in the competition and although he was already well-recognized for his kicking and organizational skills tonight he showed Queensland coach Kevin Walters he can trouble defensive lines with his running game. Hunt scored a scintillating solo try in the 48th minute when he split the defense and raced over to score. Food for thought for coach Kevvie.
What were your highlights from the Dragon's first loss of 2018? Let us know in the comments below.