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Monday, 23 July 2018

NZ Warriors Round 19 Review: Poor execution the difference in tight tussle

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After their exciting round 18 victory at Suncorp Stadium, the Warriors were back at Mount Smart to face the Melbourne Storm.
After the embarrassment of the Anzac day clash, the Warriors were looking for revenge, but it was not to be as they lost a much closer battle 12-6.

What a tight game this was, the Warriors showed more spirit in this match than they did in their round 8 encounters against the Storm.
Unfortunately, the Warriors lacked the execution that you need when you play a side like Melbourne, a large part of this I believe was due to the late withdrawal of  Blake Green.
Blake has been integral in leading this Warriors team around the park and in his absence.
I don't believe that Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino were up to the task in this match, making some questionable choices and not trying to settle the side down when time was running out, cool heads needed to prevail, and it felt like the team was panicking and just throwing the ball around without thought.

It wasn't all bad by any means which leads me to my positives.
The Warriors defensive effort improved in this performance, still too many missed tackles for my liking, but there weren't too many areas of the defensive line that the Storm could target.
Gerard Beale adding some much-needed structure on the right edge but if i could nitpick one thing, it would be Solomona Kata's desire to rush out of the defensive line nearly everytime the Storm ran his way.

Paasi shined once again with another strong performance. Unfortunately, Stephen Kearney forgot that he was in the side and only gave him 41 minutes in this match.
I firmly believe that if Paasi were given more minutes, the Warriors would have won this matchup.
He fights for every metre and is always a nuisance defensively.
He can play more minutes as he showed last week so they should be using him more.

Lastly, the Warriors did not give up in this match, even in the dying stages of the game they were still pushing the Storm to the limit, but they were just unable to finish their oppurtuinties.
It's a learning lesson for the Warriors and a close hard fought match like this is perfect when it comes to preparing for finals football, and I think with Blake Green back the Warriors will have a better chance of converting their opportunities into points and ultimately getting them the win.

There were still areas of concern though which leads me to my negatives.

First up the referees were not up to scratch not only in this match but in several this round.
In this match however they missed forward passes for both sides, and Cameron Smith's high shot on Ken Maumalo was impossible to miss yet for some reason they missed it.
The NRL need to do something about the poor performances from the referees as it really makes the games frustrating to watch.
Don't get me wrong the Referees were not the reason that the Warriors lost this match I just want to some accountability if the officials perform poorly.

Stephen Kearney still seems unable to effectively use his interchange, with Peta Hiku's injury during the week we finally have three forwards on the bench, but he just left his players off the field for too long.
At one stage Kearney had Simon Mannering, James Gavet and Agnatius Paasi all sitting on the bench, against the Storm you cannot keep players like that on the bench for as long as Stephen did, im hopeful that one day he will get it but it most likely won't be this season.

My last negative is the lack of execution.
Shaun Johnson and Mason Lino did not mesh, and neither player seemed to put there hand up to lead the team.
It's no secret that Shaun performs better when he doesn't have the pressure on him to steer the ship but with Mason joining him in the halves he really needed to step up, and he just didn't deliver.
Several times throughout this match they both looked lost and made silly decisions, the play that sticks out in my mind was when Mason put a grubber through for himself on the 2nd tackle when he had a two-man overlap on his outside.
All this will be fine if Blake returns next week but if he doesn't Shaun needs to step up.

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My Warrior of the game goes to Ken Maumalo.
Ken continues to impress me each and every week, it's hard to believe that this is the same player that couldn't seem to hold onto the ball last season.
His runs are critical to the Warriors performances every week, and it's a joy watching him when he makes a break.
He still has a lot of room to develop, and I believe the best is yet to come from big Ken.

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My Warrior to improve is Simon Mannering.
After announcing his retirement during the week, I thought a weight would be lifted from his shoulders, but this week he seemed to make a lot of errors that he wouldn't usually do.
He was off on his passing game and tried to offload when it wasn't on.
I think it may have been more a fact that Simon was trying too hard and it just wasn't working.
I firmly believe that this was a blip, Simon will bounce back strong as he nears his 300th game and will finish his career off with much better performances.

Round 20 has the Warriors heading back across the ditch to face the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans have been the Warriors whipping boys for the past few seasons, and I feel that this trend will continue with the Warriors winning this match by 12.
With the ladder as congested as it is the Warriors really need to get a big win here to improve their points differential.
There is still a buffer between 8th and 9th place, but the Warriors need to add to their win tally to keep themselves comfortably in playoff contention.
Blake Green and Issac Luke should both return this round, but Adam Blair has been cited and will miss one game if he pleads guilty and two weeks if he fights it and loses.
If it were me I would take the guilty plea as missing the match against the Dragons is too big a risk.
Pulu will most likely return to the side in Blair's place after a strong return in reserve grade this week.

So that was my take on a deflating round 19 but as usual i will leave you with some questions.

Do you think that the Cameron Smith high shot should have been a penalty?
Who was your Warrior to improve?
Would you rush Pulu back into the side?
What is your score prediction for Round 20?

Monday, 16 July 2018

NZ Warriors Round 18 Review: Redemption at Suncorp

Copyright Photo: Patrick Hamilton / Photosport
After round 17's embarrassing performance against the Penrith Panthers, the Warriors made the journey to Suncorp Stadium to face the Brisbane Broncos with both sides needing a win to keep in playoff contention.
In stark contrast to last weeks match, the Warriors came out victors with a comprehensive 26-6 win.

What a game this was, as I wrote last week I was not confident that the Warriors would be able to come away with the win but I was happy to be wrong this week.
The Warriors improved tenfold this week, there is still lot's of things to work on of course but the Warriors bounced back in style, and you could see that they relished the great weather an dry track they were able to play on which leads me to my positives from the game.

The first positive wasn't from the game itself, but the Warriors members function at Skycity, it was the first time I have gone to the Skycity game screening.
It was a great experience, watching the game on a large screen with a bunch of members was an excellent way to watch this game, and winning a prize at halftime definitely sweetened the function for me so thanks to the Warriors team for putting the event on.

But onto to the game.

The Warriors got back on track with what they do best, running those straight lines opening holes in the defensive line for their agile players to take advantage and consistently kept the Broncos defence on the back foot.
The forwards were prepared for the battle up front and delivered one of their better performances as a unit in quite a while.

Players that I have singled out the past few rounds stood up and redeemed themselves in my eyes with the two I want to point out being Peta Hiku and Jazz Tevaga.
I think a big part of Hiku's improved performance was the positional change that was made, moving Hiku out to the wing helped immensely.
He was less of a defensive liability on the wing but was still able to contribute to the match with some solid runs, if big Ken is 100% this week, however.
I would still be cutting Hiku as I liked what I saw in Beale at centre and Ken's hit-ups out of the Warriors own half are so crucial in getting the Warriors sets started strong.

Jazz is just the little engine that could, he just kept going and going and was the Warriors very owner little cleaner, mopping up any loose tackles and restricted a lot of the Broncos attempts at second phase football.

Speaking of the second phase, the Warriors finally brought the second phase back into their arsenal with the return of the offloads, yes they didn't always stick, but man it makes for an exciting watch when they can throw the football around.

Lastly, the improved defensive effort across the park was a sight for sore eyes, after last week were they appeared lost on defence, so it was great to see the Warriors return to the defensive efforts they showed at the start of the season.
Roger showed more desperate try-saving antics and the teams scrambling defence prevented so many of the Broncos last-ditch attempts to get back into the match, the Warriors were very close to being the first team to keep the Broncos scoreless at Suncorp, but the consolation try the Broncos scored wasn't that hard to swallow.

It still wasn't a perfect performance however which leads me to my negatives.

Not a lot of negatives this week but handling errors still need to be reduced, it was a significant improvement from last week though and im confident that they can bring them down some more.
They cost themselves a few more tries with some errors but it's easier to forgive those when they get a twenty point win, but in those tight encounters they will need to convert those opportunities into points.
The style that they play can lead to handling errors, so it does come with the territory, they just need to find that balance.

Penalties also need to come down but again like the errors they did improve from last week so im confident they can reduce it some more.
Restricting the opposition from as many chances with the ball in hand will be essential to how far the Warriors go this season, and I believe they do have the ability to cause some headaches in the playoffs.

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My Warrior of the day goes to Agnatius Paasi.
This was Paasi best performance to date by a landslide, with Bunty getting injured Paasi has stepped up and become the Warriors go to forward.
160metres, three Linebreaks, five tackle-breaks and a try show how devastating he was in this match.
He got more minutes this week, and it really helped the Warriors keep the pressure on, and I can't wait until Bunty returns, and the Warriors have both of them causing havoc up the middle.

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I have no Warrior to improve this week as I couldn't single anyone out that let the side down, so I will give a shout out to Issac Luke.
Issac had yet another excellent performance busting the Broncos wide open with devastating dummy half runs.
He has returned to form this season, and I think the best is yet to come from Issac this year.
Rumours are getting stronger that Issac will not be retained at the club next season but im still hopeful that there will be some way to keep him around next season as I still believe that he is the glue that holds this side together.

Round 19 sees the Warriors return to Mt Smart to host the Melbourne Storm in what is going to be a tough encounter.
After the humiliating Anzac day clash, the Warriors will be looking for some revenge, and the win would help them climb their way back up the ladder.
In the Warriors only Sunday afternoon match at home I'm going for an eight-point win for the Warriors, the Storm are performing well, but if the Warriors can play with the same intensity they did this week, they have a great chance to come away with the two points.

So that was my take on a wonderful Round 18 performance, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Would you swap Hiku for Ken this week?
Do you want the Warriors to pull out all the stops to retain Issac Luke?
Who was your man of the Match?
What is your score prediction for Round 19?

Monday, 9 July 2018

NZ Warriors Round 17 Review: Night to forget in Penrith

Copyright Photo: Photosport
After last weeks controversial narrow loss to the Sharks the Warriors crossed the Tasman looking for retribution against a Panthers side minus their origin stars.
A win here would see the Warriors return to the top four but it was a night to forget for Warriors and Warriors fans alike as the Warriors delivered arguably their worst performance of the season losing 36-4.

Well, what can you say about that performance?
The Warriors were dreadful on Friday night, this was their chance to make a statement against an understrength side, and they were well and truly humbled.
I'm not sure if it was a case of not preparing correctly or if they took the Panthers lightly, but it was both frustrating and embarrassing to watch.

Nothing seemed to work for the Warriors in this match, and the backlash from the result stirred the murmurs that the Warriors of 2017 had returned.
Now I don't believe this to be the case, yes the match was ugly, but the glaring issues can be fixed, and luckily there is a six-point gap between the top eight and bottom eight, so the Warriors still have a buffer to keep them in the top eight.
However, if they don't fix those issues (more on that in my negatives), they could very well slide out of the playoff race or get eliminated in the first week.

The only positive I have this week and that the match is over and the Warriors have the chance to get back in the Winners circle this week.

Unlike my lack of positives, there were several issues which leads me to my negatives.

I feel like a broken record, but missed tackles and penalties continue to derail the Warriors week in and week out, and the Warriors missed 62 tackles against the Panthers.
There is no excuse for 62 missed tackles, and I'm not sure what the Warriors need to do (bar one change which I will go over in my Warrior to improve) to fix this, but they have to do something.

The Warriors need to reduce their penalty count, in the first half the Warriors were penalised 6 times in a row and were starved of possession as a result.
You cant win games if you just give the opposition the ball, and with 10 errors and 10 penalties that is 20 sets gifted to the Panthers that should not have happened.

When the Warriors did manage to hold onto the ball, they never seemed on the same page, and it showed with forward passes and poor last tackle options.
Shaun Johnson had a quiet game, and the forwards did not do him any favours with the majority of the pack not doing their part in bending the defensive line.
The loss of Bunty Afoa and Tohu Harris was noticeable, and James Gavet, Chris Satae and Ligi Sao need to step up to the plate because Agnatius Paasi cannot do it all on his own.

This leads me to my last point, Stephen Kearney's interchange rotation.
Paasi came off in the twentieth minute and was not brought back on until the final eighteen minutes.
Paasi is head and shoulders above the rest of the front rowers right now, and you could see the Warriors lost a step when he left the field, and it felt like he was forgotten on the sidelines.
Being down 12-0 at the half I would have started the second half with Paasi to really get them back into the match.
Hopefully, the interchange rotation gets fixed, but I'm doubtful as Kearney has always left me scratching my head with his bench choices and subsequent gameday rotation.

I have no Warrior of the match this week.
There were a few players that were trying, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green, Passi, Issac Luke, David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo all played well in a weak side, but the overall performance of the team tarnished all the individual performances for me.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior to improve goes to Peta Hiku.
I feel like Peta has been in this section every week and it is always for the same reason, he seems to lack the ability to tackle.
Gerard Beale replaced him in the last 14 minutes, and the Warriors defence improved dramatically almost instantly, and with Beale injury free it feels like a no-brainer to have him start and to relegate Peta to the reserve grade.
I have been of the opinion that Peta would improve as the season progressed and that his combination with Fusitu'a on attack outweighed his defensive frailties, but the final nail in the coffin for me was when he gave up chasing the Panthers players down after a line break in the lead up to Waqa Blake scoring.
Watching the replays after the try was scored you could see that Peta showed no interest in trying to catch the Panthers players and it concerned me to see such a blatant lack of heart.
If Peta is named this week to face the Broncos, I couldn't even begin to imagine how bad a performance he would have to put forth to get dropped.
The business end of the season is upon the Warriors, and they have some tough matchups in the next three rounds with games against the Broncos, Storm and the Dragons, and they can no longer carry players that are not pulling their weight, so he needs to be dropped.

Round 18 has the Warriors facing the Bronco's in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon.
It's a must-win match for both sides, and I'm picking the Broncos's to get the win by 18.
I'm hopeful that the Warriors will get the win here but I think the Forwards will not be able to match the Broncos pack and the backline will struggle as a result.

The Warriors are hosting a members screening of the game at SkyCity on Sunday that I will be heading along to, so if any of you are going, come and say hi and let me know what you think of the Season so far.
I've heard good things about these events in the past, so I'm looking forward to going and watching the game on a big screen and hopefully watching a great game.

So that was my take on an embarrassing Round 17, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Did you have a player of the game?
What would you do with Peta Hiku?
Where do you see the Warriors finishing on the ladder?
What is your score prediction for Round 18?