Warriors lose grip on top four
SATURDAY night's dramatic one-point loss to the Broncos has put a sizeable dent in the Warriors' chances of a top four NRL finish.
While they remain an outside chance of sneaking into the top four and earning home advantage for the opening week of the finals, their best chance to do so may well have just passed them by.
Had they won on Saturday night they would have been just two points adrift of the Broncos and Cowboys and one point behind the free-falling Dragons - essentially right in the thick of a four-way battle for third and fourth.
Instead the late Peter Wallace field goal that ended their four-match winning run has dropped the Warriors four points off the top-four pace.
It now appears they will scrap with the Tigers, Dragons and Saturday night's foe Newcastle Knights for the bottom four finals places over the last weeks of the regular season.
Having dispatched the hapless Raiders 40-8 yesterday and put 50 points past Gold Coast a week earlier, the Knights will head to Auckland in sparkling form.
Yesterday's result, coupled with the Tigers' Friday night victory over the Dragons, leaves the Warriors, Knights and Tigers level on 26 points.
The Warriors head the bunch on points differential, while all three clubs have a four-point buffer over the ninth-placed Bulldogs.
Two wonder tries - one a brilliant solo effort from Shaun Johnson and the other created by a James Maloney chip and regather and finished explosively by Kevin Locke - weren't enough to see the Warriors past the determined Broncos.
After coming back strongly through a Shaun Berrigan try and a Maloney penalty to tie the game with 10 minutes remaining, the Warriors had their chances to pull off what would have been a fine victory.
Instead they succumbed to some familiar late-game failings.
Maloney missed a field-goal attempt from a handy position with five minutes remaining, while Johnson saw a booming, angled 40m effort drop just under the crossbar.
Wallace showed how it was done with a composed strike from point-blank range with under two minutes remaining.
Even then the Warriors had a chance to send the match to golden point, however they bungled it badly, with the ball ending up in prop Russell Packer's hands, forcing Maloney into a rushed final field goal attempt that drifted harmlessly wide of the posts.
Darren Lockyer's record-tying 349th match was a mixed affair.
His declining pace was brutally exposed by the flying Locke as the Warriors surged ahead in the first half, but the wily playmaker then exposed Feleti Mateo's lazy marker defence with an inside ball to Matt Gillett that put the Broncos back on top.
Lockyer's late field goal attempt was charged down, denying him the chance of a grandstand finish, but the Broncos recovered the loose ball and Wallace calmly slotted over the winning kick.