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Monday, August 8, 2022

NZ Warriors Round 21 Review: Warriors never in the fight as Rabbitohs cruise to victory


After their disappointing loss to the Storm in Round 20, the Warriors made their way to the Central Coast to face the Rabbitohs. The Warriors were never in the contest as the Rabbitohs dominated the match from start to finish, ending with their biggest win of the season, 48-10.

What Went Down

The Rabbitohs bolted out the gates and never looked back, scoring four tries in the first 21 minutes of the match. Targeting some poor Warriors defence, Souths made it look easy as Lachlan Ilias, Damien Cook, Tevita Tatalo and Keaon Koloamantangi all crossed with Cameron Murray playing a hand in the first three tries, causing plenty of headaches for the visitors.
The Warriors finally found themselves on the scoreboard when Ed Kosi finished a nice right-to-left play in only their second set played within the Rabbitohs half.
Souths weren’t done yet as they finished the first half in style, scoring another two tries via Latell Mitchell and Alex Johnston. Johnston’s try was the 159th of his career as he continues his climb up the all-time tryscoring leaderboard. This saw the teams go into the sheds with the home side leading by 30 points and much improvement needed by the Warriors.
The second half started in the same manner as the first, with the Rabbitohs taking only three minutes to score their seventh try via debutant Izaac Thompson. Minutes later, Johnston looked sure to cross for his second, scorching down the field with Dallin Watene-Zeleaniak making a massive try-saving tackle, desperately dragging the winger’s leg over the sideline at the last moment.
After learning a penalty, the Warriors were in good field position, and Kosi looked dangerous before being dragged down close to the line; the New Zealand side kept the pressure on, and Shaun Johnson scored after receiving a Jack Murchie offload.
The Rabbitohs almost scored a length of the field try but were given a penalty after Reece Walsh hit Johnston without the ball; Souths went back to work. Mitchell crossed for his second try when a decoy run parted the Warrior’s goal-line defence like the red sea in the game’s final scoring play in only the 56th minute.
Both sides had a few more highlight reel plays left in them, with the Rabbitohs almost scoring via Thompson and the Warriors making a huge break thanks to Reece Walsh, who passed the ball to Murchie, who showed some impressive pace before being dragged down just before the line. The visitors looked ready to cross again but let Souths off the hook with a forward pass.
The Warriors had one final attempt at scoring when Johnson put a kick up that was tapped back by Marcelo Montoya before being tapped again by Souths and ending up in the hands of Taniela Otukolo, who was held up just under the crossbar.
Despite a few close calls, the Rabbitohs had done more than enough damage in the first half to see them finish with the biggest win of their season while the Warriors continue to countdown to the offseason after another disappointing display.

My Thoughts

I was quite worried about this match but went in optimistic that the Warriors could show up and be competitive, but boy, I was wrong.
After weeks of saying the Warriors have been showing improvements, they went all the way back to where they started. 
The Rabbitohs have been in great form since the return of Latrell Mitchell, but even the Knights showed more fight in their 40-28 loss in Round 17.
It was a hard watch, and I know most won’t even read this review due to not wanting to relive this performance or lack thereof.
It just looked like most of the players had thrown in the towel; there was no heart and a clear lack of attitude, which meant they never had a chance.
The Warriors have a tough run home, and my original thoughts on them losing all their remaining matches except the final round against the Titans looks to be firming unless some serious actions are taken.

There wasn’t much, but I found a few things to smile about this week, which leads me to my positives from the match.

Match Positives

I thought the Warriors showed some slight glimpses of promise on attack when they were inside the Rabbitohs half, scoring two nice tries and asking some questions of the Rabbitohs defence. They had a few other chances but let themselves down with some wayward passes. Their biggest issue was that their poor defence limited their chances, and the Rabbitohs forced them to play most of the match within their own half. If they sort that part out, then they should be able to get more points on the board.

That was really all I could find, so I will say at least we have another game at Mount Smart coming this week. There is also a members forum on Thursday, which should lead to an interesting night after such a disappointing season. I’m not sure how many will be in the crowd this Friday night after this poor performance, but hopefully, the Warriors will give the live crowd something worth watching.

However, I had a few concerns, which brings me to my negatives from the game.

Match Negatives

Defence is the most obvious negative here; the Warriors missed 33 missed tackles and made 30 ineffective tackles. In the past few weeks, they have shown good defence in patches, but there was none of that in this match. Their attitude needs to be a lot better; however, I don’t think they were helped with the lineup changes; they looked to not be on the same page, and this created some massive holes in the defensive line, and the Rabbitohs did not have to be asked twice to take advantage. If they stick to their assignments and trust the man on either side to do their job, then the defensive structure should improve.

Errors played a part in this poor performance; the Warriors ended the match with 13.
When your defence is letting you down, the last thing you can afford to do is just throw the ball away. Mistakes happen but dropping simple passes or throwing wayward passes isn’t NRL level. The coach killers need to go ASAP! 

Lastly, the side selection made by Stacey Jones for this match was a massive gamble, and they failed. Dropping Pompey was the right call, and I want to see that trend continue, but every other change he made was wrong; Wayde Egan did another serviceable job at five-eighth, but the side plays better with him at hooker and Aaron Pene should not have been lock over Josh Curran. I know Jones came out after the selections and said he was focused on picking a team to win games rather than develop younger talent, and while I get that, I don’t think the team he picked had any chance of being competitive. It will make this week’s team naming very interesting, and I feel like he has thrown in the towel.

Warrior of the Match

My Warrior of the match goes to Jack Murchie.
I struggled to pick a Warrior of the week here as I think the whole side didn’t deliver, but I decided to give props to Murchie. He was one of only two Warriors forwards to run for over 100m, ending the game with 128m (Addin Fonua-Blake ran for 169m). His stats were helped by his big run after Walsh’s linebreak, but he was one of the only forwards that looked dangerous with the ball in hand; his wraparound play to set up Johnson’s try looked great, and his defence wasnt too bad with 36 tackles and 2 misses. If he can deliver more efforts like that, I wouldn’t mind the Warriors extending his stay with the club.

Warrior to Improve

My Warrior to improve goes to Aaron Pene.
I had high hopes for Pene when his signing was announced, but he has failed to deliver so far in 2022; I already mentioned that picking him over Curran to start the match was a mistake, and he barely had any impact in the game, only running twice for a combined total of 23 metres, he also only made 22 tackles with 1 miss and exited the match after 27 uninspiring minutes. I still believe he is a quality player; however, we haven’t got the best out of him yet, and I think he will be better suited joining the match from the bench.

Next round thoughts and prediction

Round 22 sees the Warriors return to Mount Smart to face the Bulldogs, who went down 28-14 against the Cowboys in Round 21.

Regarding the team, I would pick; in the backs; the only change I would make is bringing Ronald Volkman or Daejarn Asi into the halves to partner with Johnson, moving Egan back to hooker. 
In the forwards, Curran goes into lock, with Pene moving to the bench.

The Bulldogs have been one of the big improvers the past few weeks and have looked dangerous against even the top four sides, so they are no longer the easy beats they have been the last couple of seasons. It will be a massive task despite playing at home, and unfortunately, I think the Bulldogs have shown me more lately, so I will pick the Bulldogs to win by 10.

So that was an embarrassing Round 21, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What changes would you make to the game day 17?
Has the side given up?
Are you going to the Members Forum?
What is your score prediction against the Bulldogs?

Monday, August 1, 2022

NZ Warriors Round 20 Review: Another week, another Warriors second-half collapse as Storm end losing streak

After their disappointing loss to the Raiders in Round 19, the Warriors return to home soil to face the Melbourne Storm. Despite a close first half, the Warriors could not keep up with the Storm, and for the first time in a while, I actually got my prediction correct with the Storm winning this one by twelve with the final score being 24-12.

What Went Down

With two penalties against Nelson Asofa-Solomona in the opening three minutes of play, the Warriors were gifted field position early into this match. With starting hooker Wayde Egan an early casualty with a jaw injury off the back of the second Asofa-Solomona dangerous tackle penalty, the home side could not convert their weight of possession into points.
Eventually, it was passive goal-line defence from the Warriors that saw Justin Olam slot straight through and open up the scoring off a pass from Cameron Munster during Melbourne’s first set inside the Warrior's red zone.
Hitting back, the Warriors managed to cross for their first points following another Melbourne penalty. A Harbour Bridge pass from five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tevita saw Edward Kosi capitalise on an overlap on the left edge.
After picking out the man with the injured knee in Harris-Tevita, Melbourne crossed for their second of the evening. It was a neat series of passes that both started and ended with Harry Grant, with touches from Jahrome Hughes and Felise Kaufusi in between, that saw the Melbourne hooker fall over the line to take the lead for his side once again.
In almost identical fashion to their first try, the Warriors once again crossed on the left edge with a double for Kosi. Replacing Harris-Tevita from their first try for the assist, it was Egan that threw the looping pass that allowed his winger to slide in for his second meat pie of the evening and make it a two-point game heading into half-time.
Right off the kick-off for the second half, Melbourne was back to business. It was a quick play from dummy half from Grant – whilst essentially on top of the Warriors’ try-line – that put Hughes through a large gap and over the mark for the first points of the second 40.
A deep shift to the right edge saw Grant Anderson put in a perfectly weighted kick for replacement fullback Nick Meaney to time his run and plant the ball down in the in-goal for Melbourne’s second try in a row. 
Originally sent up to The Bunker as “no try”, a quick review showed the put down from Meaney was legitimate.
In yet another duplicate of the first two tries, Kosi went over for his hat-trick. Halfback Shaun Johnson was the man to throw the pass this time, leaving Kosi to do what he had already done twice before.
Despite utilising two kickers in Reece Walsh and Johnson, the inability to nail conversions hurt the Warriors, finishing the match 12 points behind the Storm after missing all three conversion attempts.

My Thoughts

So the losing streak against the Storm extends to thirteen.
 I wasnt surprised; despite the form slump the Storm has been in, they are never an easy team to face, and if you compare this loss to the previous sixty-point defeat on ANZAC day, then it wasnt too bad. However, a loss is still a loss, and the Warriors were in this match for the first 40 (much like last week) but left the door wide open for the Storm to take control, and they refused to let the Warriors get back into the contest. 
Overall though, I think the Warriors showed further improvements and played well in patches; they just need to keep building and play for the whole 80 as they have another tough clash this week against the Rabbitohs.

There were a few things to smile about this week, which leads me to my positives from the match.

Match Positives

I thought the front rowers stood up, led by Tohu Harris (190m), Addin Fonua-Blake (138m) and Bunty Afoa (106m), also kept the pressure on the Storm middle, although I felt that AFB had less impact than I expect and I'm not sure if he has an injury or just in a rut. Jackson Frei had a limited stint towards the end of the match, and I liked what I saw from him, so hopefully, he gets more time on the field sooner rather than later. 
The Warriors will find themselves in a better place if they have four props that can hit the triple-digit running metres, bending that defensive line but the coaches need to ensure they are rotated correctly to keep them all fresh. 

I have requested more respect for the ball the past few weeks, and we saw that with the Warriors only making six errors in this match. They still chanced their arm from time to time, and it did work with those big cutout passes, but they played smarter with fewer 50/50 plays. I want to see them play more like this for the rest of the season as they can score points without playing risky football all the time; there is a time and place for it, so it's good to have in the back pocket, but they need to improve their basics first.

With CHT having to go off injured, the Warriors moved Wayde Egan into the halves, and I thought he did a great job; I know he has experience in the halves in his younger days but playing there in first grade is another level. He looked composed, put on a few good passes and didn't look out of his depth. It doesn't mean I want to see him moved to the halves by any means, but I was impressed by his effort out there, especially after having his teeth cracked by Nelson Asofa-Solomona in the early stages of the match.

However, I had a few concerns, which brings me to my negatives from the game.

Match Negatives

The defence is back in the negatives; the Warriors missed 31 tackles in this match; they showed some good defence in patches, but when the Storm applied pressure and had repeat sets, the Warriors just fell off. It has been an ongoing trend all season, and I have repeated time and time again that their attitude and trust in each other needs to get better if the defence is to improve. It just feels like it's one step forward and two steps back when it comes to their defensive structure.

The injury to CHT was a massive blow; with this season being potentially the final time that he plays in the NRL, I would have liked to see him finish the season healthy, but with a suspected MCL injury, it looks like his season is done. A massive shame for the young man, but at least it means the Warriors can give that open halves spot to one of the young players that could potentially be taking that spot over in 2023 (depending on if Asi gets a new deal or if Te Maire Martin signs as all rumours indicate)

I wasnt happy with the interchange rotation now, the Warriors weren't helped by injuries and HIA's, but I feel like Stacey Jones and the coaching staff are not using their bench to the best of their abilities; I think giving Jackson Frei only 14 minutes didn't really help anyone. The Raiders and the Storm displayed excellent use of the bench the past two matches, and it could just be down to inexperience from Jones, but hopefully, we see some smart changes being used in the season's final five games.

Lastly, the officials and, more importantly, the match review committee. I think that Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Josh King were lucky not to be sin-binned, and Graham Annesley has come out and said that he believes NAS should have been sent to the bin. However, since then, the match review committee has come out and cleared both players and then sighted Jackson Frei and fined him. I just want to see the NRL have some consistency as players doing the same thing last week have been suspended. I don't want to say it's because they were Storm players or because it was in a match against the Warriors, but it doesn't look great. Just have the same rules and punishments for all clubs and players.

Warrior of the Match

My Warrior of the match goes to Ed Kosi.
It's fair to say I have been critical of Kosi so far in his short career and was partially savage after his horrid showing against the Storm in Round 7. 
However, I thought he was terrific here, the Storm targeted him all night with kicks, and he made no errors; he ran for 136m and scored his first ever hat-trick. He still looked a bit lost in defence at times, but I saw enough from him not to worry when he is named on the wing. The key is for Kosi to set this level of performance as his baseline and build on it. If anything, it could give the Warriors a chance to drop my Warrior to improve.

Warrior to Improve

For the second week in a row, my Warrior to improve goes to Adam Pompey.
I don't know what else I can say after what I wrote last week, and I just don't get what the Warriors coaching staff see in Pompey right now, half-hearted runs, inept defensive reads at times and the ability to make an error at the drop of a hat. He is a big body, and if he ran like Marcelo Montoya, I believe he could be a dangerous player; however, we just haven't seen it, so I would be dropping him from the starting 17.

Next round thoughts and prediction

Round 21 sees the Warriors fly over to the Central Coast to face a Rabbitohs side that went down 21-20 in Golden Point against the Sharks in Round 20.

Regarding the team, I would pick; in the backs; I would bring Jesse Arthars in for Adam Pompey and bring Ronald Volkman in for CHT (I like Asi, but he fades out in the backend of games). In the forwards, I would be happy to keep them as named for this match. The bench I would also keep the same.

Souths have been at another level since Latrell Mitchell's return, and this match will be tough. The Warriors will need to be at their best and shut Mitchell down. I don't like their chances, and I'm worried about a big defeat here. I will try to be optimistic and pick the Rabbitohs to win by 18

.So that was a disheartening Round 20, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who would you bring in for CHT?
Do you see the Warriors getting another win this season?
How can the Warriors fix their second-half performance drops?
What is your score prediction against the Rabbitohs?

Monday, July 25, 2022

NZ Warriors Round 19 Review: Warriors second half collapse sums up season

After their disappointing loss to the Eels in Round 18, the Warriors made their way to GIO Stadium in 
Canberra to face the Raiders.
This was the second time these sides have clashed this year, with the Warriors winning the first clash in Golden Point. However, that was not the case this time, as the Raiders scored four tries in the second half to come from behind and win 26-14.

I didn't think the Warriors would get the win here, but they got my hopes up when they burst out of the gates quickly, earning a penalty and a repeat set before former Raider Jack Murchie took a short ball and barged his way over the try-line. They continued to pile on the pressure when Daejarn Asi crossed for their second try after Xavier Savage failed to defuse a monster bomb.
The Raiders were given a penalty on the Warrior's try line when Jack Wighton was held back after putting a kick into the in-goal; however, they could not take advantage of the field possession as the visitor's goal-line defence held firm.
The Warriors added to their lead after Shaun Johnson kicked a penalty from 40 metres out in the 26th minute after showing some great spirit, defending multiple Raiders attacking opportunities. 
However, Canberra were not helping themselves, making several errors with the ball in hand, which saw the home side go into the break scoreless.
The Raiders looked a more composed side when they returned from the sheds, Wighton kicked a 40/20 in the first set, and after a few close calls, the Raiders finally found success when they scored in the corner via Albert Hopoate minutes later.
After the game went into a stalemate, the Raiders took control of the match after Jazz Tevaga lost the ball with a bit of help from Corey Harawira-Naera; the New Zealand side's defence was unable to hold Sebastian Kris out as he latched onto a short-ball to score. Wighton then kicked another 40/20, and the Raiders found themselves in front for the first time in the match after Harawira-Naera ran into a massive hole and crossed the try line untouched. Harawira-Naera made it a double a few minutes later, diving on Jamal Fogarty's grubber just before it went over the dead-ball line.
Harawira-Naera looked certain for a hattrick after diving on a Reece Walsh knock-on, but the bunker deemed that the forward lost control of the ball; Walsh then gave away a penalty for kicking the goal-line drop-out out on the full, which saw Fogarty extend the lead to 12 with a penalty kick in the final scoring play of the game for a well deserved come from behind victory for the home side.

So this was a frustrating watch; the Warriors played well enough in the first half to go on and land the win here; they just did not leave the sheds after the break and left the door open for the Raiders. Skipper Tohu Harris said that his teammates need to take a look at themselves in the mirror, and I agree with him; plenty of soul-searching is required before playing the Storm this week. 

There were a few things to smile about this week, which leads me to my positives from the match.

Match Positives

I was happy with the Warriors starting the match quickly; they scored twelve points in the first eight minutes of the match and set themselves up nicely for the rest of the game if they didn't switch off. They need to keep starting games bolting out of the gates but do have to remember to play for the entire 80 minutes.

I thought the Warriors looked good with the ball in hand in the first 40 minutes, they were asking plenty of questions of the Raiders, and Jack Murchie and Chanel Harris-Tavita were running good lines and almost broke the game open on several occasions. I like the spine they went with in this match and would like to see this spine stay on for the rest of the season, although I think that Daejarn Asi's kicking should have featured more.
Defensively they battled hard and refused to let the Raiders through with some stern goal-line defence; translate that 40 minutes display into an 80-minute performance week in and week out, and the Warriors should see some results go their way. 

Flowing on from that, I thought Chanel Harris-Tavita had yet another decent outing as fullback. He was popping up in the inside shoulder of the ball runner, which is something I have been begging to see from Reece Walsh. He also appears to be able to get the defensive line set much better. Is he a better fullback than Walsh? I don't think so, but Walsh plays to his own script while CHT appears to fit better with the Warrior's current gameplan. Just a shame that he is leaving at the end of the year.

However, I had a few concerns, which brings me to my negatives from the game.

Match Negatives

The most obvious negative is the second-half collapse, it flows into all my negatives, so I won't get into too much detail here, but the NRL is one of the most challenging contests out there where one of the top teams in the competition can get beaten but a bottom team if they switch off. So when two teams this close on the ladder are battling, and you find yourself with a decent lead, you can not afford to take your foot off the gas. It's a harsh lesson to learn, but hopefully, it's a wake-up call for the Warriors.

Errors continue to haunt the Warriors; they finished the match with ten, which just helped the Raiders get back into the contest. I thought they were hard done by on a few of the calls, but you can't say that all ten errors were incorrect and the need to get the schoolboy errors out of their game; otherwise, I struggle to see them getting many wins in the remaining six rounds of the season. Please, Warriors, just show the ball more respect.

Much like everything else, I thought the Warrior's defence completely fell apart in the second half. They showed that they could contain the Raiders in the first half but that all fell away when the Raiders got into the match and started applying more pressure. They ended the game with 35 missed tackles, and the lion's share of those were in the second 40. It could be as simple as the Warriors clocking off, believing their lead was big enough, but the attitude and trust in the players on either side of them needs a lot of work this week as they prepare for Round 20.

Lastly, I wasnt a fan of the lineup changes and use of the bench. I was happy enough with the team named on Tuesday but didn't like the gameday changes, moving Josh Curran to the bench in particular; I feel the Warriors missed him when momentum swung against them; Murchie did a good job out there, so I would have moved Aitken to the centres to keep Curran on the pitch. I also thought Stacey waited too long to bring Walsh into the game; he said he brought him on because he thought the Warriors needed some spark to get back into the contest, but it was too little too late. I will go into it later when discussing the team I would pick, but Im not sure where Walsh fits for me.

Warrior of the Match

My Warrior of the match goes to Tohu Harris.
Another monster effort from the Captain, he led the forward pack with 112 metres (the only forward to hit triple digits this match) and was heavily involved on the defensive side of the game, making 44 tackles. He adds another dimension to the Warrior's middle with his ballplaying skills, constantly threatening to move the ball after contact to another teammate in open space; if CHT remains at fullback, you can put money on him bursting into open space after one of these Harris plays. Being Captain of the Warriors is never easy, and his first year at the helm has not been pretty. Still, I have my fingers crossed that his give it 100% attitude starts to rub off on the rest of the squad because if more players had his mindset, then the Warriors could be a dangerous outfit.

Warrior to Improve

My Warrior to improve goes to Adam Pompey.
Pompey is simply not a first-grade level centre; he may not be helped, but the Warrior's wingers are always running at a hundred miles an hour, but it looks like Pompey is just going through the motions. Several other options should be in his spot right now, and he needs a wake-up call to either reach his potential or realise that he has a lot to work on before being a regular first grader.

Next round thoughts and prediction

Round 20 sees the Warriors return home to Mount Smart to face a Melbourne Storm side currently on a four-game losing streak and desperate to make a statement after everyone has started to doubt their playoff potential.

Regarding the team I would pick, I would keep the backline the same, with the exception of swapping Pompey for Aitken. 
In the Forwards, I would bring Curran back into the starting lineup, either in Aitkens spot or back to lock (with Jazz Tevaga going into the spot that Curran isn't).
The bench is a bit trickier, Bunty Afoa and Eliesa Katoa keep their spots, and I would give Aaron Pene or Pride Peterson-Robati the other forward spot on the bench. For the 14, I would toss and coin and either let Walsh keep it or bring Freddy Lussick back. If Walsh stays there, he needs to be brought into the match around the 60-minute mark when the storm middles are starting to slow down.

It's going to be great going to another live match this week, and I can't wait but playing the Storm is always challenging; however, facing a Storm side that hasn't won in a month is a scary prospect, and I don't like the Warriors chances, so I am going to pick the Storm to win by 12.

So that was a frustrating Round 19, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Would you make any changes to the 17?
What would you do with Walsh?
Would you like to see the Warriors offer Asi another contract?
What is your score prediction against the Storm?