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Thursday, 27 April 2017

NZ Warriors Round 8 Review: Close but no Cigar in Anzac Clash

Copyright Photo: www.photosport.nz
After a disappointing second half outing against the Raiders, the Warriors travelled to Melbourne to face the Storm in their annual Anzac day clash.
Memories of the 42-0 embarrassment from last season hanging over their heads the Warriors needed a much-improved effort if they were to walk away victors.
The Warriors did improve against the competition-leading Storm, but they could not keep the pressure on and were defeated 20-14.

The Warriors started well yet again with the forwards lead by James Gavet running with purpose and probing the Storms defensive line and coupled with a focused defence they piled on the pressure.
The pressure was converted into a scoring opportunity for David Fusitu’a at the 10-minute mark, Shaun Johnson converted, and the Warriors continued with the same game plan.
The Storm finally managed to get on the scoreboard after man mountain Nelson Asofa-Solomona barged over the try line 30 minutes into the match.
With Cameron Smith converting the scores were level until the Storm gave away a penalty with two minutes remaining in the first half, after a few moments of confusion amongst the team the Warriors elected to take the penalty goal and went ahead 8-6.
This, however, did not last as the Warriors gave away a penalty of their own in the dying stages of the half and Cameron Smith slotted the penalty to tie the game up 8-8 at the break.
The Warriors came out with intent in the second half with David Fusitu'a crossing for his second try of the match 4 minutes in.
Cooper Cronk scored after Will Chambers took advantage of a defensive mismatch with Bodene Thompson having to play at centre with Solomona Kata going off with a hamstring complaint.
The Warriors showed more indecisiveness when the Storm gave away another penalty, and they looked unsure of what to do, they eventually decided to go for another penalty which Shaun slotted to give the Warriors a 14-10 lead with 30 minutes to go.
Both sides traded sets until the Storm changed gears and Josh Addo-Carr scored in the corner barely managing to stay in the field of play.
A try to Felise Kaufusi in the dying stages of the matched sealed the Warriors fate with their fifth loss of the season going down 20-14.

Copyright Photo: Brendan Ratnayake / www.photosport.nz
My Warrior of the game goes to Blake Ayshford.
I have been impressed with Blake's performances since his return in round 4, Blake is not a superstar game breaker, but he doesn't let you down.
His presence has helped tighten the defence on his edge (24 tackles in this match), and his combination with David Fusitu'a is bearing fruit in its early stages.
His ability to draw defenders in and open space up for David to take advantage off.
Blake is off contract this season, but I would be open to re-signing him for next season.


Copyright Photo: www.photosport.nz
My Warrior who needs to improve goes to Ligi Sao.
Ligi has not offered any substance since his return to New Zealand, let alone this season.
Unfortunately, he is currently a waste of an interchange, I couldn't even locate a picture of him from this game for my review, hence the team shot.
I don't understand why he was brought into the side to replace Bunty Afoa as I feel that Bunty has outperformed Ligi so far in every way.
Ligi like Blake, is also in the final year of his contract but I would not be signing him for further seasons, I think it would be best for the Warriors if Ligi played reserve grade for the rest of the season with Bunty or Charlie Gubb taking his spot on the bench.

Despite the end result, I think this was one of the better performances from the Warriors this season.
The Warriors handling improved tremendously with only 5 errors in this match, an 86% completion rate sets you well on the way to getting a victory.
Missed tackles are still an issue with the Warriors missing 39 tackles in this match and allowing the Storm to make 15 offloads.
But the Warriors travelled to Melbourne and face the competition leaders, and it took one of the Storm best performances of the season to defeat the Warriors, and if the Warriors can continue to play like they did on Anzac day, they will start climbing the competition ladder.
Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are continuing to link up and cause headaches for the opposition, and Ben Matulino played well in his return from injury.
The Warriors are still coming up with some poor last tackle options and need to try and create more second phase football to convert opportunities into points.
However, despite the loss, the Warriors are improving as a unit but need to start stringing wins together.

Before I wrap this review up, I just want to mention the refereeing in this match.
Ben Cummins and Dave Munro did not cost the Warriors this game, but their performance was woeful.
Josh Addo-Carrs try decision was correct in my eyes, but I was surprised that it was not sent to the bunker for confirmation.
The Storm held the Warriors down in the tackle for a noticeably longer period of time than the Warriors were allowed when they were defending.
Blake Ayshford being penalised for being offside when he was clearly onside was a joke and observing Ben Cummins smiling when Cooper Cronk scored left a foul taste in my mouth.
The Warriors are not the only team to get the sharp end of the stick in the referring department but unfortunately, the referees are a protected species, and nothing ever appears to be done to punish their poor performances, and this needs to change.
Even if it is as simple as a referee getting dropped for a week after a bad performance.

This week the Warriors return to Mount Smart to face the third-placed Sydney Roosters, this will be a close match with the Roosters coming off a hard-fought victory over the Dragons and will be looking at cementing their spot in the top 3.
If the Warriors continue to perform like they did against the Storm, they will give themselves a great chance to win.
The Warriors need this win badly, and I believe they will get it winning by 8.

So that Round 8, a loss but with definite signs of promise, and as per usual I will leave you with some questions.

What was your opinion on the refereeing?
Who would you rather have on your interchange? Bunty, Ligi or Charlie
If Solomona Kata doesn't return from injury this week who would you pick at centre?
Would you have taken the penalty goals or pushed for tries?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

NZ Warriors Round 7 Review: Warriors rue errors in Capital showdown

Copyright Photo: www.gettyimages.com.au

The Warriors made the journey back to Australia after the back to back victories at Mount Smart to face the Canberra Raiders.
Playing the Raiders in Canberra is no easy feat, and the Warriors would need to bring their A-game to tame the rampant Raiders attack.
The Warriors did front for the first half of the match but fell back into their old ways in the second half and lost 20-8.

It truly was a cliche game of two halves, the Warriors started the match strong and with purpose.
Ryan Hoffman got on the scorecard first after snatching a Kieran Foran bomb out of the sky.
The Warriors continued to pressure the Raiders, forcing them to defend three sets in a row but could not break the Raiders line.
The Raiders started to get themselves in the game with their massive forwards testing the Warriors with each hit up and offloading at will, this lead to powerhouse centre Joseph Leilua scoring with relative ease in the corner.
Both sides traded sets with neither team gaining the upper hand, the Warriors had two tries from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and Solomona Kata disallowed but did manage to convert a penalty goal to take the halftime lead 8-6.
An entirely different Warriors side came out in the second half, they appeared sloppy and lacked the handling skills that had been so improved in previous rounds.
The Raiders started to dominate the match, and the Warriors looked to be in trouble when Leilua scored his second try.
 The Warriors just could not get themselves back into the match up, and Josh Hodgson sealed the deal when he scored the final try of the game taking the Raiders to a 20-8 win, keeping the Warriors winless in Australia.

Copyright Photo: www.warriors.kiwi

My Warrior of the game goes to Ryan Hoffman.
In a disappointing game for the Warriors, Ryan was one of the Warriors that was played strong in both halves.
He was by no means perfect missing tackles that he would usually make, he countered this with a more robust running game being one of only two forwards to run for over 100 metres in this match.
With no contract in place for next season but a strong desire to play on, Ryan has been playing at an improved level compared to last season. With Tohu Harris coming over to the Warriors I wouldn't be signing Ryan to a contract extension anytime soon but if no other teams offer him a deal there may be a chance to grab Ryan for a very good price, and it may not hurt the Warriors chances in 2018.

Copyright Photo: www.gettyimages.com.au

My Warrior who needs to improve was tight this match, but I have given it to Ken Maumalo, Solomona Kata was close to getting it again this week, but Ken just edged him this round leading the games error count and not having the best day under the high ball.
Screams for Ken’s head I feel are uncalled for right now, Manu is still out injured, and if the forwards perform like the did in this game again, the Warriors will need Ken to help with the hit ups out of their own half.
In what was a poor performance for Ken he still managed to get 154 metres, second most in the game for a Warriors player.
Ken is never going to be a game breaker, but he is a strong runner that plays with confidence and he will learn and improve from this performance.

So after a somewhat impressive first half, the self-imposed implosion in the second half did come as a surprise to me, but the Warriors did themselves no favours in this match with their terrible error rate.
In the first half, they made 4 errors coupled with a staggering 13 errors in the second half, throw in 37 missed tackles, and simply put the Warriors painted themselves into a corner and could not fight their way back out.
The referees did not have the best game with some calls going against the Warriors that seemed peculiar to say the least, Roger’s try not being allowed was outrageous however with the way the Warriors performed they did not deserve the victory.
I was also concerned with Stephen Kearney’s interchange mindset in this match.
He took longer than normal to bring Sam Lisone on, he also brought Nathaniel Roache on early but did not bring Issac Luke back out, Roache did not bring anything to this match that deemed worthy on a prolonged time on the pine for Issac.
With the large forward pack, the Raiders possess the Warriors needed to take advantage with the quick play the balls and dummy half runs that the Warriors have shown the past two performances, but for some reason, they clocked off at half-time.
Taking nothing away from a Raiders side that has shown themselves to be very capable, if the Warriors kept playing the way they did in the first half they could have walked away victorious.
But the fact of the matter is that the Warriors didn't, and they lost as a result.
The Warriors have extra days to think about this performance and prepared for their Round 8 showdown on Anzac day in Melbourne against the Storm.
After last years embarrassment on Anzac day, the Warriors will need to be firing on all cylinders to ensure they get their first win on Australia soil for 2017.
I feel the Warriors are going to come to the party on Tuesday and get the much-needed victory and I am picking the Warriors to win by 6 in a close encounter.

So that was a disappointing Round 7, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What do you think was the reason for the Warriors switching off at half-time?
Would you make any changes to the side after this result?
How do you see the annual Anzac clash going this year after last years humiliation?
When would you bring Ben Matulino back into the side?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

NZ Warriors Round 6 Review: Defense shines in Eels encounter

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
 After last week’s closer than expected victory over the Gold Coast Titans the Warriors were once again playing at Mount Smart Stadium, this time facing the Parramatta Eels in a must-win encounter.
Losing here would see the Warriors sitting 2-4 with a hard mountain to climb to regain top eight contention.
A win would place the Warriors 3-3 and in a logjam with several other teams in the middle of the ladder still in control of their own playoff hopes.
Thankfully for the 13,526 fans in attendance, the Warriors continued their improved performance from last week with a solid 22-10 victory over the Eels.

Both sides started slow trading sets back and forth until the 20th minute where the eels took advantage of the Warriors inability to defend an inside pass and angle change to pit Nathan Brown over.
This seemed to wake the Warriors up as the forwards marched them up the field and scored three tries in 10 minutes with Bodene Thompson scoring two and Simon Mannering also crossing taking the Warriors to a 16-6 lead at Half-time.
The Eels started strong in the second half with a Josh Hoffman try 4 minutes in, this started what felt like a Parramatta comeback attempt with two tries being correctly disallowed when sent to the bunker.
The Warriors defence stood tall and keep the pressure on preventing the Eels from crossing.
With less than twenty minutes to go Kieran Foran took advantage of the Eels lethargic defensive line and put Ken Maumalo over the line to seal the win for the Warriors 22-10.

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
My Warrior of the game goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
It was a tough choice this week as many players stood out in this performance, but Roger was always safe under all of the Eels kicks, and his returns started the Warriors sets off on a positive note.
It got to a point where the Eels started kicked the ball out instead of letting him run it back.
He also created headaches for the Eels when he joined the backline as a third playmaking option.
If Roger can continue in this vein of form, the Warriors will have the teams above them on the table carefully looking over their shoulder.

My Warrior who needs to improve, well this week I just couldn't pick one.
The team improved in all facets, and although Solomona Kata isn't back to his form of last season, he did improve his performance from last week but still has a long way to go.
I would love to be able to never have to pick a player who needs to improve so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend.

Copyright Photo: Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
This was a refined performance from the Warriors, their ball-handling has improved a lot over the past two rounds.
A 95% completion rate in the first half is not a statistic we have grown accustomed to seeing from this side.
They did fall away a little in the second half but still ending the game on 82%.
The forwards fronted again and offered the backline plenty of options to score, James Gavet and Sam Lisone continue to dent the defensive line at will, I don't really need to say it, but the Forwards need to keep this up if the Warriors are to succeed this season.
With Albert Vete and Ben Matulino due to return in the coming weeks, it is hard to pick players to drop for them as they are all performing.
Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were running great lines and were able to put the second rowers into holes.
Three of the four tries were scored in this fashion if Bodene, Simon and Ryan can keep running these lines the defensive lines will bunch up on them which will leave spaces for the centres and wingers to strike.
The Eels scored first in both halves, but the Warriors didn't drop their heads and kept themselves in the game with their defence.
The Warriors attitude has improved tenfold, their defensive line rushed up to put the opposition under pressure and force errors.
A special mention does need to go to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and David Fusitu’a who threw their bodies on the line to prevent Semi Radradra from scoring in the corner.
This defensive mindset needs to continue if the Warriors are to cement themselves in the top eight this season.
Although this game was far from perfect, some passes were forced, and the Warriors gave the Eels too many piggybacks out of their own half unnecessary penalties.
These are minor issues to work on and seeing how the Warriors have improved the handling and defensive problems, they should be able to fine tune their performance to stamp their mark on the NRL in 2017.

The Warriors travel to Canberra to face the Raiders in Round 7.
The Raiders also have a 3-3 record and playing in Canberra is never easy but if the Warriors can continue playing with their current mindset they should be able to get the result here.
I am picking the Warriors to defeat the Raiders by 10 points this Saturday.

So that was Round 6, and the first back to back wins for the Warriors this season, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What were your thoughts on the Warriors performance?

Who was your standout performer in this match?

How do you see the upcoming matched on Canberra and Melbourne going?

Are there any changes you would make to this side?

Let me know what you think





Wednesday, 5 April 2017

NZ Warriors Round 5 Review: Foran impresses in come from behind victory

Copyright Photo : Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz
The Warriors returned home to Mount Smart Stadium after last rounds horrible performance to face the severely depleted Gold Coast Titans.
Kieran Foran finally made his debut in what was a very close encounter with the Warriors breaking their 3 match losing streak to get their second win of the season.

The Warriors started well with the forwards showing more effort this week, this flowed directly into Issac Luke’s game, and after a well-timed dummy half run, Issac was able to put Shaun Johnson under the posts for the first try of the match.
The Titans fired back and took advantage of the Warriors still troubling defence with tries to Dale Copley and Daniel Vidot.
A few minutes later Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck linked up and put David Fusitu’a over in the corner in.
The Warriors defensive woes continued as the Titans scored back to back tries through Kane Elgey to finish the first half leading 22-12.
The Titans already ravaged by injury before the game started lost three more players during this match and the Warriors took advantage of the tiring Titans defence.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck crossed the line early in the second half to bring the Warriors back into the game.
After an arm wrestle in the middle of the field where neither team could gain the upper hand, Kieran Foran sliced through the Titans defence and scored his first try for the Warriors, after Shaun converted the try the game was all tied up with only 20 minutes to go.
Both sides were unsuccessful with field goal attempts.
However, Ryan Hoffman had a touch of luck when his attempt was touched by a Titan defending which gave the Warriors another set to try and take the victory.
Ryan was involved again moment later when he charged over for the match winning try in what was almost a repeat of his match winning try from Round 1, with Shaun’s conversion going over with just mere seconds remaining the Warriors walked away with the win 28-22.


Copyright Photo : Renee McKay / www.photosport.nz
My Warrior of the game goes to Issac Luke, Issac hasn't had the greatest start to the season in 2017, but with the forwards attacking the line and getting quick play the balls, he was able to take advantage with plenty of sniping runs from dummy half.
He played at a better tempo and did not let off for the entire 80 minutes, and if the forwards can continue to create a platform, Issac will go from strength to strength.
If the Warriors are to succeed this season, they need more performances like this from Issac.



Copyright Photo: www.photosport.nz
My Warrior who needs to improve is Solomona Kata, Solomona has never had a great defensive game, and it showed in this performance.
The thing with Kata is that what he offers on attack outweighs what he lacks defensively, however, this year he has lacked the punch we have come to expect from him.
Not to mention the fact that there were two possible tries left begging when he did not pass the ball to the open Ken Maumalo, in a competition where games are so close you have to put the team before yourself and if a player is in a better situation to score you give them the ball.
I think he needs to go down to the reserve grade and find some form and learn to be a team player and let one of the reserve grade centres that have been performing so well have a chance at staking a claim on a starting first-grade spot.

So, the Warriors got the win, there are still plenty of things to work on, and it was against a wounded Titans side, but they improved on the handling front and managed to claw back a lead and grind out the win.
The forwards delivered in this game with the prop rotation all getting 90+ metres each, Sam Lisone and James Gavet are continuing to inject themselves into the game with attitude and opening opportunities for the talented Warriors backline to strike.
Speaking of which Kieran Foran's debut match was successful, he showed no rust as he directed the team around the park, his presence alone seemed to take a load off Shaun's shoulders, and his play improved as a result.
In the spines debut, I give it a pass, but the forwards need to continue to do their bit if the spine is to play to any of their potential.
The defence needs to improve drastically, the Warriors are soft on the edges, and sometimes the markers are lazy and leaving holes for opposing teams to take advantage of.
If the Warriors can tighten their defence, they can actually start to get their season on track again.
This week the Warriors face the Parramatta Eels at Mount Smart Stadium, the Eels can at times be a real threat, but I feel that the Warriors will roll on from this week’s performance and get the much needed two points, so I going to pick the Warriors to win by 12.

So that was an improved Round 5, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What did you think of Kieran Foran's first match for the Warriors?
Which props (If any) would you drop when Albert Vete and Ben Matulino return?
How would you fix the Warriors edge issues?
What's your score prediction against the Eels?