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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

NZ Warriors Round 20 Review: Bowen dashes Warriors playoff hopes

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After the embarrassment of Round 19, the Warriors packed their bags and headed to North Queensland to face the Cowboys.
With the season on the line and playing without Shaun Johnson and my pick for player of the year James Gavet, the Warriors had their back against the wall.
The Warriors showed heart but lacked precision and ultimately went down 24-12.

The 2017 season trend continued as the Warriors were first to score through Bunty Afoa and showed grit and determination as they forced multiple repeat sets.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the repeat seats didn't lead to points, and after a Mason Lino kick had gone out on the full, the Cowboys clawed their way back into the match with back to back tries to Justin O’Neil and Javid Bowen.
The Warriors put the final stamp on the first half with a try to Simon Mannering to level the scores 12 all.
Issac Lukes conversion of that try would be the last points the Warriors would score in this match although not for the lack of trying.
Ethan Lowe grabbed a Kyle Feldt offload and crossed for the Cowboys third try midway through the second half.
The Warriors had a few chances to force the game into Golden Point but could not convert them into the much-needed points.
Including a head scratching dummy-half run from Solomone Kata on the last tackle when the Warriors really needed to get the ball out to Kieran Foran to either set up a try scoring opportunity or force a repeat set.
Javid Bowen sealed the match with a length of the field try after scooping the loose ball from a Warriors bomb to end the game 24-12.

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My Warrior of the game yet again goes to Simon Mannering.
I don't know what more I can say about Simon, he is a consummate professional who leaves everything out on the field.
He has always been the Defensive linchpin of this side, but it is his recent effort on attack that has impressed me, once again Simon was one of the leading metre eaters with 133 metres gained from 16 carries.
He continues to put his body on the line for this club, and I hope that the younger players in this organisation take note and try to emulate Simon's work ethic, if they do the Warriors future will be bright.

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My Warrior who needs to improve is Solomone Kata.
That dummy half run killed this match, as soon as Solomone went into dummy half on the last tackle I knew he was going to try and bash his way over, the problem is the Cowboys knew it too and had more than adequately prepared for it.
With the season on the line the Warriors needed to get the ball to Kieran and any other player on the field at that moment would have done it.
Solomone isn't a team player, he has stated in interviews that he doesn't pass the ball as all he wants to do is score tries.
That would be great if he was actually scoring tries, but he has only scored 6 this season.
Stephen Kearney needs to teach Kata to play for the team instead of himself or drop him, with a player like CNK waiting in the wings I would choose the latter.

With the season on the line, the Warriors really needed a win here, and you could see that they were pushing the Cowboys to the limit.
Kieran Foran stepped up in the absence of Shaun Johnson and put it all on the line, an attempt at a 40/20 that narrowly missed could have completely changed the result here, but it just wasn't to be.
Mason Lino did not look out of place in first grade yet again and was not gun shy, and Chris Satae showed promise in his first-grade debut with a strong 10 minutes after James Gavet was cruelly ruled out for the season with an arm injury.
This was definitely an improvement compared to Round 19, but you don't get competition points for trying, the Warriors need to start winning again sooner rather than later.

This week the Warriors are back at Mount Smart and are set to face the Cronulla Sharks in what will be a brutal encounter.
The Warriors now need 5 of their last 6 matches and have other results go their way if they are to have any chance of playing finals football in 2017.
Stephen Kearney has named the same side that faced the Cowboys to face the Sharks, and if the players can bring the same intensity that they showed in North Queensland, they could run away with the upset here.
Unfortunately, I think the Sharks forward pack will be too much for the Warriors, and I'm picking the Sharks to win by 8 on Friday night.

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

What is your score prediction for the Sharks match?
What are your thoughts on Solomone Kata’s dummy half run on the 5th tackle?
Do you think the Warriors are going to play finals football still?
How big a loss do you think James Gavet is?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

NZ Warriors Round 19 Review: Cleary breaks hearts at Manu Vatuvei Stadium

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After the bye in Round 18, the Warriors returned to Mount Smart Stadium, renamed Manu Vatuvei Stadium for one night only to face the Penrith Panthers.
The Warriors needed a win here to close the gap on the top eight but were found wanting after an inspired performance from Nathan Cleary as the Panthers ran away with a 34-22 victory over the home side.

Well, what can you say about this performance?
The Warriors started strong with a try to Simon Mannering mere minutes into the game, the Panthers did not let the quick start rattle them, and they fired back in quick succession.
Both sides traded blows and tries with neither team taking control, with the Panthers going into the halftime break leading 18-12.
The Warriors scored the first two tries of the second half and looked to be on the way to a much-needed victory until Shaun Johnson collapsed when he was chasing an Issac Luke chip kick, with the Warriors key attacking spark now off the field the team appeared to fall apart.
Enter Nathan Cleary.
Returning to the field he had spent many hours at as a youngster, Nathan made the Warriors pay for their lacklustre defensive attitude and score the final two tries of his hat trick back to back.
By the time Waqa Blake scored the matches last try the game was well and truly over with the Warriors appearing to check out once Shaun Johnson limped off the field.

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My Warrior of the game goes to Simon Mannering.
Simon continues to perform at a level well above the rest of his team mates.
As usual, Simon topped the Warriors tackle count, but he also made the most running metres in the Warriors pack.
Forget the Kiwis spine, Simon is the backbone of this side, and if it weren't for him, the Warriors would be staring at larger defeats than the 12 point loss suffered in Round 19.

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My Warrior who needs to improve is Ligi Sao.
15 Minutes was all Ligi played on Friday night, and he offered nothing to the side on attack or defence when he was out there.
He is the quintessential Mr Invisible and is the waste of a bench spot.
The only thing that confuses me more than Stephen Kearney's interchange setup is why Ligi got resigned to a new deal when the Warriors have let so many youngsters with potential walk out the front door.

With the season on the line and a night dedicated to Manu Vatuvei’s departure, the Warriors had every reason to front but failed to deliver.
Except for Simon Mannering and James Gavet, the forwards offered no punch up the middle.
With the early exit of Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran was meant to take the reins and lead the team, but he took a note from Ligi Sao’s book and disappeared.
With Shaun out for 6-8 weeks the Warriors are going to be leaning on Foran, and if he doesn't show up, it is going to be a brutal end of the regular season.

This week the Warriors are heading to North Queensland to face the Cowboys, even without Johnathan Thurston the Cowboys are still formidable, and the Warriors have a tough night ahead of them.
In the absence of Shaun Johnson Stephen Kearney has selected Mason Lino to take up the halfback role in the only change from Round 19’s side.
Mason is dependable and will do his best for the Warriors but is his best going to be enough?
The forwards really need to come to the party this week otherwise the Warriors will be dead in the water.
If the Warriors can get a roll on and let their backs loose they may come away with the upset here.
Unfortunately, the Warriors post origin history is poor, not to mention how weak the Warriors perform without Shaun Johnson, so I am picking the Cowboys to win this match by 14.

The Warriors now need to win 6 of seven matches to have a chance of reaching the playoffs, with tough matches against the Cowboys, Sharks and Sea Eagles it is hard to see that happening and looks like the Warriors will yet again fail to make the eight.
Tough questions will be asked I’m sure, but what will happen in off season to the club if they fail yet again is hard to say.
Jim Doyle has stated that he would walk if the Warriors didn’t make the eight but I think others should go first, namely Tony Iro.
Tony’s name always seems to pop up when people talk about the poor culture within the club, and as the head of recruitment, Tony has lost more players than he has brought in so I believe he should be first to go.

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

Is the Warriors season over now?
How do you think Mason Lino will go?
Would you keep Ligi Sao in your 17, if not who would replace him with?
If the season is over what would you do in the offseason to fix this side?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

NZ Warriors Round 17 Review: Perth curse continues for Warriors

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After the hard fought win in round 15, the Warriors made the long Journey to Perth to face the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Sea Eagles have been on a roll for the past month and facing them in Perth where the Warriors have never been victorious was always going to be a tight contest, and the Sea Eagles played heartbreakers yet again with the Warriors going down 26-22.

In what has become a constant theme in 2017 the Warriors started this game quickly scoring 16 points.
The Warriors looked well on their way to breaking the Perth hoodoo but appeared to turn off mentally with the Sea Eagles finding holes in the Warriors defensive line scoring three tries in quick succession to level the game 16-16 at halftime.
Manly continued to dominate the scoreboard with another two tries in the second half before Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored after the Warriors took advantage of Akulia Uate fumble on a kick return.
The Warriors had a few more attempts to snatch a victory but were unsuccessful including an impressive run from Shaun Johnson that ultimately went nowhere as the Sea Eagles threw everything they had to stop the elusive playmaker.
So regardless of the promising start the Warriors went down yet again in Perth and are still sitting just outside of the top eight with time running out to make the cut.

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My Player of the day goes to Shaun Johnson.
Shaun’s performance was impressive, his kicking options were on point, and he threw everything he had at the Sea Eagles.
When his confidence is up, he is a dangerous player, his ability to break the line is unrivalled in this team.
His defensive game has also improved dramatically this season, and it showed in this match with Shaun only missing 1 tackle.
If the Warriors are to have any chance of making the top eight they need this confident Shaun to show up week in and week out.

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My Player who needs to improve is David Fusitu’a.
David has been a let down the past few rounds, once a shining light in the Warriors backline David has recently been overshadowed by Ken Maumalo and CNK.
A crucial moment in this match for me was during Shaun's large run towards the end of the game, Shaun signalled for David to cut inside but he just watched him, a faster reaction could have been the difference between winning and losing this match.
Missing in defence and losing a step on attack I am unsure what is going on with David but with the impending return of Solomona Kata he may find himself out of the side, and he needs to go back to the David fans have come to expect after the bye round.

The Warriors have improved, there is no denying that, but as of right now they do not appear to have what it takes to be a top eight contender.
I always say that as critical as the Warriors fans are they will always appreciate this team if they appear to be trying and in this match, they never looked to give up.
Yes, they will be rueing the missed opportunities, but it is fair to say that the Warriors side of a few months ago would have lost in Perth by 20 or more points.

Injuries are a concern with Nathaniel Roache hurting his hamstring during an impressive run in this match and Albert Vete breaking his arm and they now join Issac Luke and Ryan Hoffman in the casualty wing with Kieran Foran not being 100% either.
The bye round this week is a blessing in disguise for the Warriors as they attempt to get these players healthy.
With 8 matches left to play the Warriors only encounter three teams that are currently in the top eight, and if they are any chance of reaching the playoffs, they cannot throw away any more matches like they did this week.
They need to continue to start games strong, but they also need to keep their foot on the throat and not let their opponents back into the match.

After the bye round the Warriors are back at Mount Smart and face the Penrith Panthers.
Penrith have been on a decline in recent times, and the Warriors are going to have to take advantage, and I’m picking the Warriors to win this match by 12 points.

So that was a heartbreaking round 16, and as per usual, I will leave you with some questions.

With Vete’s injury, who would you bring onto the bench to replace him?
Is Kieran’s hamstring a concern and would you rest him from the next match?
Would you drop David Fusitu’a and replace him with Solomona Kata on his return?

What is your score prediction for the upcoming match against the Panthers?