NRL: Coach Andrew Webster hails NZ Warriors' fight in narrow loss to premiership contenders Sydney Roosters

Even in his first defeat as an NRL coach, new NZ Warriors boss Andrew Webster has seen enough from his players to be content with their start to the 2023 NRL season.

After a 20-12 opening victory over Newcastle Knights, the Warriors suffered an inverse 12-20 loss to Sydney Roosters on Saturday, as a wake-up call to the club's ambitions of being contenders for the NRL's top eight.

But the loss doesn't tell the entire story.

Shaun Johnson reacts in NZ Warriors' loss to Sydney Roosters.
Shaun Johnson reacts in NZ Warriors' loss to Sydney Roosters. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Warriors were hit by four injuries to frontline players over the course of 80 minutes, losing the pair of fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Jackson Ford to concussion, while Josh Curran was withdrawn by a hip issue.

Second rower Marata Niukore was forced from the field at one point, but passed his head injury assessment (HIA) to return later.

At one stage, the Warriors trailed by 12 points at 18-6 in the second half. But while Warriors sides of the past would have fallen away, Webster's team fought.

Addin Fonua-Blake's second half try closed the gap to six points, leaving the Warriors one score away from levelling against a side expected to challenge in 2023.

However, ultimately, the Warriors fell short. Despite ending up on the wrong side of the scoreline, though, Webster knows just what Saturday's showing means in the context of the season.

"I just said it to the boys, I'm super proud of how hard we're competing, for how long," said Webster.

"When things aren't going our way, we're not throwing the towel in. I'm super proud of that."

But the coach knows there is still plenty to work on. 

As was the case against the Knights, the Warriors were hurt by slow starts to each half, allowing the Roosters to score first to start each period.

Still just two games into his tenure, though, Webster knows that the right results will come in time.

"We just keep making it really hard, putting ourselves under pressure. The possession count is getting out of control. We knew that, we wanted to work on that.

"I could see we were trying to get better at that. We just can't lose confidence - we will sort it out.

"If we combine that with resilience, and how hard we're working for each other, we'll win enough games."