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Monday, 9 September 2019

NZ Warriors Round 25: Poor season ends on high note with Raiders upset

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After last weeks disappointing final home match, the Warriors made their final journey across the ditch to face a Canberra Raiders side already guaranteed a top-four finish.
Despite the Raiders resting several players, the Warriors were still expected to be handed yet another defeat in what has been a horrible season.
The Warriors did not get memo however as they came from behind to defeat the Raiders 24-20.

2019 has been a horrible year with the Warriors failing to deliver much on the paddock, but it was good to see the team end the season with a victory.
Although the Raider rested some key players, the Warriors also were missing several players with the likes of Peta Hiku, David Fusitu'a and Chanel Harris-Tavita missing the match. So a Warriors team that has struggled for much of the year came into this match missing a fair share of it's attacking threats, but they showed glimpses of what could have been if they were able to perform with some consistency which leads me to my positives.

I have to repeat it, but it was great to end 2019 with a win. This season hasn't been great to write about with this past month probably being the hardest month of reviews I've written.
Writing about heavy loss after heavy loss takes it's toll so this final week was a welcomed change.

The offloads are back, the Warriors had 20 offloads in this match including that highly nerve-racking last tackle run which lead to Tuivasa-Shecks try which went through 13 or 14 passes.
I have said it earlier this year, but when the Warriors throw the ball around they are tough to contain, and if they played with this style more often they would be a dangerous side to compete against so fingers crossed the Warriors embrace this style moving forward.

When the Raiders started to pull away, I began to fear the worst and expected the Warriors to drop their heads and give in like they have done for the past 6 weeks, but they kept themselves in the hunt and kept attacking right to the final whistle.
Once again, it is a case of "where has that attitude been" for the past few months, but it was good to see the Warriors show some heart.

Taane Milne had to wait until the last round, but he finally made his debut for the Warriors and had a solid outing.
He made some massive tackles and didn't overplay his hand on attack. The biggest question I have is why did Stephen Kearney wait so long to bring Milne up. His form in reserve grade has been good from what I managed to see even though most of it was in the second row, but with the Warriors centres and second rowers not really delivering, I believe he could have made an impact a lot sooner.
Moving into 2020 I would have Milne in my gameday 17.

There was still plenty of issues with this performance, though, which leads to my negatives.

The Warriors defence was painful at times, the Raiders scored several soft tries with Josh Hogdson's try just before halftime being an unfortunate spotlight on the Warriors poor marker defence.
There was even a situation in the second half where the Warriors had no markers at all as the tacklers ran back to the defensive line.
I'm not sure if the players lack confidence in each other or are just not talking in the defensive line, but I'm sure it is one of the facets of their game that is at the top of the list to be fixed this upcoming preseason.

The Warriors error rate is still too high, with 8 errors in this match.
I'm a realist and know that if the Warriors throw the ball around like I want to see them do, then the error rate is going to go up.
It's a double edge sword, but just a little bit more respect for the football would keep me handy.

The penalties were still too high for me also, some of the calls were a bit rough but the Warriors have been playing the game long enough to know they have to play to the whistle and make changes depending on how the referees are calling the match.
Having two referees with two different viewpoints doesn't make thing easy, but if the Warriors want to be successful, they need to learn to adapt.

My last negative isn't to do with the Warriors but is about Hudson Young and his eye-gouging of Adam Pompey.
I cannot comprehend why players continue to do things like this when there are cameras directed at every inch of the field.
Young has already been suspended for five weeks this season for eye-gouging and is certain to be looking at possibly double that this time around.
There's no need for this kind of act in the NRL, and hopefully, this will be the wakeup call he needs.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Tuivasa-Sheck form continued with another strong outing, dominating the Warriors side on attack and saving the team with several key defensive plays.
His ability to keep the opposition second-guessing when he has the ball in hand contributes so much to the Warriors scoring ability, and that was evident in that passage of play that lead to his try. He touched the ball three times in that crazy last tackle play, and you could see the Raiders panic each time he got the ball.
The scary thought is where the Warriors would be without RTS, and hopefully, the team improves sooner rather than later because if they don't, they may lose him.

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My Warrior to improve goes to Isaiah Papali'i.
Papali'i hasn't had the greatest season, and this game was no different, he made plenty of tackles but also missed several important ones that lead to Raiders scoring opportunities.
Papali'i is still very young, and I'm sure he has learnt a lot this season it will serve him well in the future as he grows into a great player for the Warriors.

Well, the season is done now and there no game to preview for next week, but there is the Warriors members forum tomorrow night.
The forum will be interesting after such a disappointing year, and I will be intrigued to see what Cameron George, Stephen Kearney and co say to the members that attend, I'm sure they will have some tough questions directed at them, and hopefully, they give some honest answers.

I aim to have my season review up next week, and it will follow a similar format to how all my reviews have been, with my thoughts on the season overall, players of the year, players to improve, players that are leaving and ideas on where to go from here.
Will be tough to write, but I'm looking forward to putting an end on the 2019 season.

So that's my take on a better Round 25, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Would you have Taane Milne is your 17 for 2020?
Who was your player of the match?
Going into the preseason, what would be your first significant change?
Is there anything you want me to discuss or mention in my upcoming season review?

Monday, 2 September 2019

NZ Warriors Round 24: Warriors woes continue in last home hit out

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After last weeks embarrassing outing against the Cronulla Sharks, the Warriors made their way back to Mount Smart Stadium for the last time in 2019 to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Warriors gave their fans hope after a close first half, but it wasn't to be as the Rabbitohs were too strong handing the Warriors a 31-10 defeat.

To be honest, this result was what I expected when I arrived at the Stadium.
Stephen Kearney was vocal during the week, demanding more effort from his side after back to back thrashings and for the first 50 minutes of this match the Warriors did show effort, but they were not able to keep that going for the whole 80 minutes.

The Warriors showed the best and the worst they had to offer in this performance, at times manhandling the Rabbitohs massive pack but then letting themselves down with poor discipline and substandard defence.
Poor attacking options as the pressure mounted did the Warriors no favours and must be one of the top priorities to fix in the upcoming months as the club prepares for 2020.

It was by no means great performance, but after the past month, it was at least an improvement which shows how poor the Warriors have been in 2019 when a 21 point defeat is an improvement.
I think the team and fans alike will be looking at putting 2019 behind them after the last match against the Raiders, but it is only the beginning as there is plenty of work to do to get this broken club back in order.

There wasn't much, but I do have some positives from the match.

The Warriors showed intensity once again. Unfortunately, it was only in patches, but the Warriors were driving the Rabbitohs ball carriers backwards and really forcing them to work to get out of their own half.
If the Warriors could deliver that intensity for every tackle of every set for 80 minutes, then these heavy defeats would be a thing of the past.

The Warriors first half showed that they could compete with a top-four side, they were down 14-0 halfway through the first half but bounced back quickly with the only tries they scored in the match.
When the opposition piles on points the Warriors have been found guilty this season of dropping their heads, so it was good to see them attempt to keep in the match, admittedly only for 50minutes.

My biggest concern going into this match was that Damien Cook was going to have a field day against the Warriors.
All year the Warriors ruck defence has been exposed, but they were able to keep Cook relatively quiet if Cook was able to play his typical game then I'm confident that the score would have been significantly larger.

Unfortunately, there were several problems in this performance, which leads me to my negatives.

It was good to see the intensity return, but the Warriors only showed up for 50 minutes.
The NRL is a fierce competition where any team can win on their day, but to do so, they need to play for the entire 80 minutes.
Warriors need to also address this in the upcoming offseason if 2020 is going to be better.

The Warriors discipline was a crucial component in why they were unable to get the win against the Rabbitohs.
Whenever the Warriors gave away silly penalties, the Rabbitohs twisted the knife by taking easy penalty kicks, increasing their lead and dominating possession.
You can try to blame the Referee decisions all you like, but the Warriors need to play to the whistle.

Despite the Warriors starting defensive strong in the first half, they appeared to get lazy in the second half.
They were dropping off tackles and not wrapping the ball carriers up which allowed the Rabbitohs to utilise second phase football which just torn the Warriors defensive line to shreds.

The Warriors fifth tackle options still need plenty of work.
There was really only a handful of good kicks on the last tackle, but the majority of the last play options were woeful kicks or running and dying with the ball.
I still think the only way to improve this facet of the Warriors game is two have Kodi and Chanel Harris-Tavita in the halves together.

The off-field circus continued this week with news that the joint owners are fighting amongst themselves.
As I said last week something at the club is broken. Everything starts at the top so if the owners cannot get on the same page, it is no surprise that Cameron George, Stephen Kearney and the players appear to not be singing off the same songsheet.
There is plenty of work to be done, and I'm sure the club will be bombarded with plenty of questions relating to this at the upcoming member's forum.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
2019 has been poor, but RTS is one of a select few that can hold his head up high.
This wasn't his best outing, but he was still head and shoulders above the rest of his team. Always dangerous with the ball in hand and he saved his side with several desperate defensive displays.
Hopefully, for his sake, the rest of the team will help him in 2020 as he cannot continue to carry this side for another season.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior to improve goes to Kodi Nikorima.
Kodi showed some glimpses of promise in the first half, mainly his nice run and kick for Ken Maumalo's try but he disappeared in the second half.
The pack didn't help matters, but the Warriors really needed Kodi to give the backline some attacking options, and he just didn't deliver.
After the match Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett endorsed Nikorima as a valuable player that has not shown his best yet due to the mid-year switch and that with a full preseason under his belt we will see an improved Kodi for 2020.
I genuinely hope the super coach is right.

Im sure the players and fans alike will be looking forward to this season-ending, but there is still one game to go.
Round 24 sees the Warriors head to the Australian capital to face the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders have been on a tear in 2019 and have already humbled the Warriors and will look at doing it again to cement their top-four spot.
I am hopeful that the Warriors will show up to play and make a statement in their last match of the year, but I can't see them defeating the Raiders, so I'm picking the Raiders to win by 30.

So that was slightly improved but ultimately disappointing Round 24 and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who was your player of the match?
With the issues on and off the field, how would you attempt to fix the club?
Now Koroisau off the table now, which off-contract player would you be targetting (if any)?
What is your score prediction for the final match of the season?

Monday, 26 August 2019

NZ Warriors Round 23: Humiliation in the Shire

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Wishing to put their horrible Round 22 performance behind them. The Warriors were once again in Sydney to face a Cronulla Sharks team desperate to keep their playoff dreams alive and looking for revenge after their close defeat to the New Zealand Side.
Unlike the Round 18 clash in Wellington, however, this match was a onesided affair as the Sharks heavily defeated the Warriors 42-16.

Well, the joy of being a Warriors fan continues with the second massive defeat in a row, I feel like I could just cut and paste from last weeks review and call it a day as the Warriors offered the exact same poor performance.
Last week I pointed to Gerard Beale's injury and the teams position changes being a reason for the pitiful performance but this week the Warriors were as close to full strength as they have been in weeks and they still offered very little in the form of competition against a team that was was reduced to a two-man bench.

The forwards minus a select few could not compete upfront, and this flowed through to the rest of the team with the halves offering very little in regards to last tackle options.
Issac Luke and Kodi Nikorima were unable to rush out of dummy half, and this lead to the boring one out football the Warriors have delivered for the majority of 2020, completing a high percentage of sets is great but what's the point if you are unable to score points.

Fans know the season is done for and are just looking for pride and passion.
If the Warriors went down swinging against these top eight teams, you might be able to stomach the losses a little, but the Warriors have been bullied for the past three defeats. With games against the Rabbitohs and Raiders to end their season, I don't see that trend stopping.

This team or in fact the club appears to be broken and if changes are not made, be it roster or office changes then 2020 will undoubtedly deliver similar results.

Now there wasn't much to praise, so let's just get into my positives from the match.

The only time the Warriors looked good in this match was when they were able to offload, I have said it before, and I will say it now when the Warriors can play second-phase football they are a hard team to stop.
If the forwards can pop the ball out to Tuivasa-Sheck, Nikorima or Harris-Tavita running off the shoulder, you are almost guaranteed points.
With the season well and truly over I hope to see the players throw the ball around, bring back that exciting style of play to convince the fans to show up in 2020.

My last positive is that there are only two weeks left in the Warriors season.
You can call me facetious, but 2019 has been a tough watch, don't get me wrong I love writing about the Warriors, but I am looking forward to having a break in a few weeks after I complete my season review ( a review Im not looking forward too).
A lot of work needs to happen to improve this club by 2020, but the upcoming offseason should provide some interesting stories, I'm sure.

That was all that came to mind for my positives, so onto the negatives.

I praised the Warriors for their offloads, but their weak defence allowed the Sharks to offload almost at will and Cronulla punished them for it.
The Warriors have conceded 40+ points in their past three defeats, and that is down to their poor defence.
Defence is all about attitude and effort, and the Warriors are lacking in both, the need to ensure that the wrap up the ball carrier in the last two rounds if they want to stop the one-way traffic.

There were times in this match were the Warriors competed, they showed up in patches defensively, driving the Sharks runners backwards and showing some promise on attack but to compete in the NRL you need to play for 80minutes, part-timers don't win premierships.

Before the game, Cameron George spoke in the media about his views on the season and the fact that players are not pulling their weight.
He also said that they may be discussions with some of these players about their futures, Nikorima came out later in the week saying that George should say it to the players directly instead of the media and Kearney also came out and said the George should leave that talk to him instead.
Now I think what George said is actually what a lot of fans have been saying or at least thinking anyway but hearing the reactions from Nikorima and Kearney, it is clear to that tensions are building within the club, and we may well see some significant changes in a few weeks.

Speaking of Kearney, he delivered another pearl with his bench, dropping Bunty Afoa for Blake Ayshford.
Bunty has been great off the bench this season and not having him on the pine was a colossal mistake and giving Ayshford 9 minutes was just a waste of a spot.
If Kearney continues to prove that he cannot learn how to use a bench, then I struggle to see him being the man that gets the Warriors out of the hole they are in.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
It was slim pickings, but I had to go with RTS, he didn't have the best game himself, but he was still head and shoulders above the rest of the squad.
You know that Roger is going to give 100% out there, but he really needs the rest of the team to at least meet him in the middle.
Fingers crossed the team gets on the same page as Roger sooner rather than later.

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My Warrior to improve actually goes to the rest of the team.
May sound harsh, but besides a handful of players (Roger, Burr, Ah Mau, Jazz, Ken and Hiku) the rest of the players left a lot to be desired.
It felt like they had given up and were just going through the motions and counting down to the seasons' end.
As mentioned above the Warriors only have pride to play for now, so how about showing the fans some of that pride.

Round 24 sees the Warriors return home for the last time in 2019 to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
As much as I would like to say the Warriors will come out and put on a great performance to thank the home crowd for what has been a brutal year at Mount Smart.
I just don't see it happening, the Warriors have shown that they struggle to defend the ruck area and they are facing Damien Cook who excels at taking advantage of slow markers, and I think he is going to have a field day.
I hope im wrong, but I just don't see the Warriors walking away victors on Friday night, so im picking the Rabbitohs to win by 22.

So that was my take on an awful Round 23, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What changes would you make to club, either onfield or off?
Do you have a player of the match?
Do you think these heavy defeats will continue for the last two weeks?
What is your score prediction for the last home game?

Monday, 19 August 2019

NZ Warriors Round 22: Roosters punish sloppy Warriors

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After last weeks much-needed win against the Sea Eagles, the Warriors made the trip across the ditch to take on the 2nd place Sydney Roosters.
The Roosters have been on a roll for the past month and were always going to be a tough matchup for the New Zealand side, and it showed with a resounding 42-6 defeat to the reigning premiers.

I predicted a Warriors loss in Sydney, but I was hopeful to see the Warriors stay in the fight and unfortunately that wasn't the case.
The Warriors came out of the gates quickly and were first to score, but once Gerard Beale went down with his unfortunate injury the Warriors appeared to fall apart.

Having to move Chanel Harris-Tavita into the centres had a significant impact on the match, the Warriors lost his creativity in the halves, and the Roosters targeted him on defence, and while he stepped up and did his best, the entire team's defence let them down.

The Roosters started the match slowly, but once they found their groove, they dismantled the Warriors with terrific second phase football and a gameplan that reduced the impact of Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo.
This gameplan forced the Warriors to fight out of their own half, and most of the times they struggled to get past 50 meters on the set.
While some of the Warriors were trying to throw offloads, no one appeared to be interested in running off the shoulders, and this meant that the Warriors were on the back foot for the majority of the match.

This loss now ends any slim chances that the Warriors had of making the eight and with three tough matches left before the 2019 season is over the Warriors only have pride left to play for.

There wasn't a lot to praise in this match, but there was one thing to appreciate, which leads me to my positive.

Chanel was my only positive, with him in the halves the Warriors attack had structure, and they were able to threaten the Roosters line.
While it's great to see the youngest stepping up and leading this side showing poise well beyond his years, it is shocking that Blake Green and Kodi Nikorima are struggling to match his level.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few negatives to go over so I will just get into it.

The forwards did not front.
Leeson Ah Mau and Agnatius Paasi were the only members of the pack to run for over 100 metres.
The Roosters have a great pack, and the Warriors needed to match them up front and simply pit they just couldn't.
It's not going to get any easier for the Warriors, so the Forwards are going to need to stand up and lead the way to give the Warriors a chance to secure another win.

As mentioned above the Warriors attack was woeful, misguide kicks and passes, dummy runners not running the right lines or getting in the way.
In all honesty, it was comical at times as you watched the Warriors attack not even getting organised for the next play.
Unless they sort out their attack, 2020 will be more of the same.

The Warriors conceded 26 points in the second half, and while the Roosters were playing well, the Warriors weak defence did them no favours.
The Warriors showed urgency last week and were able to wrap up the ball carrier to prevent offloading, but that was all forgotten this week with the Roosters offloading at will.
With a backline stacked with talent, any second-phase football was almost guaranteed to be converted into points.
With the Sharks coming up this week, the Warriors will need to ensure that they stop that second phase football otherwise they will be staring down the barrel of another hefty defeat.

Lastly is the Warriors discipline, they may have only been penalised 8 times, but it was more the manner and timing of the penalties they were conceding.
When they are struggling on attack and defence, they are doing themselves no favours with silly penalties.
With three weeks left there is plenty to work on for the Warriors but I'm hopeful that the team shows some improvement in the above areas before the season winds to a close.

I don't have a Warrior of the week this round.
Tuivasa-Sheck and Harris-Tavita had decent showings in patches, but I don't feel that anyone stood out for 80 minutes.

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My Warrior to improve goes to Blake Green.
Green has struggled to direct this side around the park all year, and this match was no different, for the duration of his career he has played second fiddle to another playmaker, and when he is stuck being the dominant half, he tends to fold.
I like him out there partnered with Chanel, but the combination with Kodi does not appear to be working, and they need to go back to the drawing board.
Blake has a year left on his contract, but if he plays much in 2020 will be another thing.

Round 23 has the Warriors once again in Australia, facing the Sharks.
The Warriors have already defeated the Sharks this year when they travelled to Wellington but playing in the Shire is a different story.
The Sharks haven't been in the best form, but after finally getting back into the top eight again they will be desperate to stay there.
With Beale out for the rest of the season, I expect to see Patrick Herbert return to the centres and I hope that Kodi Nikorima starts at hooker this week as the Warriors could use his pace in the ruck area.
It will be a tall order, but I expect to see a more determined Warriors side show up, but ultimately the Sharks will get the victory, so Im picking the Sharks to win by 10 here.

So that was my take on a disappointing Round 22, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who was your player of the day?
What would you do with Blake Green?
How do the Warriors fix their attack going into 2020?
What is your score prediction for Round 22's clash against the Sharks?

Monday, 12 August 2019

NZ Warriors Round 21: Warriors hold off Manly in Mount Smart upset

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After last weeks embarrassing defeat against the Raiders, the Warriors found themselves at Mount Smart Stadium for the second Friday in a row, this time hosting the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Sea Eagles made the trip to New Zealand buoyed by a three matching winning streak and looked sure to add to the Warriors woes, but it wasn't to be as the Warriors broke their Mount Smart losing streak with a 24-16 victory.

Well, what the difference a week makes. After last weeks match, I was lost for words and bracing for another heavy defeat, but the Warriors turned up this week and made sitting in the rain worth it.
It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch, but the heart that was missing in round 20 appeared to be beating again.

Many dominated the majority of the stats but were unable to convert their opportunities into points, and the Warriors turned almost every post a winner whenever they got themselves into Manly's half.
I think the Warriors were hard done by with Adam Blairs sin-binning. I was happy with the penalty being called as Blair did stop running, but I don't believe it was deserving of the Warriors being a man down for ten minutes.

I think Manly turned up already thinking the match had been won and the Warriors punished them for it. I think the fact that Manly couldn't score any points until the Warriors were a man down speaks volumes for the improvement of the Warriors defence which leads me into my positives from the match.

The attitude returned this week, I have no idea why the Warriors attitude was down last week, and I can't explain why it came back, Im just happy it did.
I still feel like finals football is not in the Warriors future this season, but with one of the hardest runs home, the Warriors need to ensure that their attitude stays at the level consistently for the final four games.
If they can do that, who knows what could happen.

The forwards showed some improvement this week and made more metres but still need to up their involvement so the Warriors backs can be used more for finishing sets off instead off being relied on to get all the Warriors metres. Leeson Ah Mau, Lachlan Burr and Ligi Sao were my standouts all running over 100 metres with Paasi and Afoa not far behind.
If they can get 6 or 7 of the pack running near 100 metres, the Warriors will find themselves in the contest regardless of who they are facing.

The Warriors showed some life on attack this week, there was less one out running, and they appeared willing to try things, my player of the day was a significant impact on that but more on him later.
Tuivasa-Shecks throw the legs pass to set up Sao's try was a great piece of the razzle-dazzle that Warriors fans love, but the Warriors showed class with Ken Maumalos tries, one via a nice chip kick early in the tackle count and the second through the hands highlighting the skill and accuracy that they can possess. More of that will keep the fans happy.

Lastly was the defensive improvement, as mentioned above the Sea Eagles could not crack the Warriors try line until the Warriors lost Adam Blair.
They still missed too many tackles for my liking but they wrapped the ball carrier up, and this was the difference compared to last week, Manly were unable to get those offloads out to unleash Tom Trbojevich, without this facet of their game the Sea Eagles started to panic and make uncharacteristic errors which ultimately lead to their downfall.
Defensive pressure is key, and the Warriors will need to ensure they keep it up.

I did have issues with the match; however, which leads me to my negatives from the game.

It didn't cost them in the end, but the Warriors gave away far too many penalties. With the Warriors defence holding Manly out, the impact these penalties had on the game wasn't too great, but if the match was closer in the first half then perhaps Manly would have elected to take the easy points and slowly starve the Warriors of possession, thankfully that didn't happen this week, but it could be an issue next week.

The ten minutes, while Adam Blair was off, was perhaps my most significant negative.
Once Blair was off it felt like the Warriors dropped their heads and allowed Manly to attack at will, scoring 16 points almost without breaking a sweat.
Despite being a man down the Warriors needed to keep trying to win the match instead of focusing on holding onto a lead. Every time the Warriors have tried that approach they have been found out, but thankfully Jazz got a try to lock in the win, but it was close to being another heart breaker at Mount Smart.

My last negative is Sam Lisone, or rather, why did Kearney not use him.
I have been critical of the use of the interchange for much of Kearneys time as coach of the Warriors, and this game was no different.
Perhaps Kearney was happy with the forward's performance and did not want to make any changes that could disrupt it.
Personally, I enjoy the energy Lisone provides, and when the large Sea Eagles pack started to tire, I would have thrown him out there to take advantage.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior of the match once again goes to Chanel Harris-Tavita.
The young gun continues to go from strength to strength, and the sky appears to be the limit when it comes to the talent he possesses.
The vision he showed when he kicked early in the tackle count for Maumalos try was excellent and showed that despite his young age, he is not scared to try things.
I can't leave without mentioning his defence, Chanel shows no fear and puts his body on the line, and what he lacks in size he makes up with aggression.
He is a star and needs to start in the halves from now on.

I couldn't pick a player to improve this week.
The 16 players that actually played were all solid for the most part, and I'm hopeful that they will build on this performance for what will be a tough encounter in Sydney.

Round 22 has the Warriors travelling back across the ditch to face the second-placed Sydney Roosters.
This will be a tough match as the Roosters are one of the best teams in the competition right now.
The Warriors will need to play at their best here if they want to walk away with another win.
I would have Kodi playing hooker this week, and he could quickly turn the match in the Warriors favour with his speed out of the ruck.
Kodi linking with Chanel, Hiku and Maumalo just screams points.

Unfortunately, I don't see it happening. I think the Warriors will stay in the fight this week but will ultimately not have enough to overcome the odds, so I'm picking the Roosters to win by 12.

So that was my take on a improves Round 21 and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

The elephant in the room, Blair sin-bin fair call or off the mark?
Do you have any player to improve?
What would you do with Kodi on his probable return this week?
What is your score prediction for the Round 22 match against the Sydney Roosters?

Monday, 5 August 2019

NZ Warriors Round 20: Warriors embarrassed in Mount Smart return

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After the controversial game at Bankwest Stadium, the Warriors finally returned to Mount Smart to host the Canberra Raiders.
The Warriors have improved their performances since their last appearance in Auckland, and the 10,395 fans that showed up were expecting a spirited showing if not a victory.
It wasn't to be however as the Warriors delivered arguably their worst performance of the year losing 46-12.

Well, this was not the performance that I expected to see from the Warriors, they have shown improvement and heart for the past 6 weeks, so I thought they had a chance to take the Raiders to the limit, but boy I was wrong.
The Warriors have either won, drawn or lost by slim margins recently, but the reality is that they were against teams stuck in the middle of the ladder like them, but once against a genuine top-four side they were well and truly shown up.
Perhaps after so many close tough games, the Warriors were simply drained, but that just isn't good enough for NRL level.

Right from Adam Blair's dropped ball in the Warriors first set of the match the Warriors fate was sealed, they had no game plan, no heart and no desire and all the fans can hope for is that it was a rude awakening for the side as they embark on a gruelling last five rounds of the season.

There isn't a lot to praise in this performance, but it wasn't all doom and gloom, which leads me to my positives.

The Warriors were able to reduce the number of penalties they conceded, and this was an effort considering the fact that they spent more time on defence compared to the Raiders, making more than 100 tackles than the Green Machine.

The majority of the gameday 17 were well below the level expected in first grade, but it was the youngsters that shown fire.
Chanel Harris-Tavita continues to show the promise he has and needs to be in the Warriors starting side from now on.
Josh Curran had a strong showing in his first hit-out for the Warriors, he did miss the most tackles with 8, but a lot of those were in his first minutes, and I believe nerves were a factor as once he had a few runs, he started to outshine the rest of the second rowers.
I would be looking at Curran to be starting over Isaiah Papali'i this week if I was selecting the squad as Papali'i has been nothing short of ordinary for the majority of the season.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few negatives to go over so I will just get into it.

The forwards were woeful, with only Leeson Ah Mau hitting triple-digit running metres. When the forwards fail to make an impact on the game, the halves and backline really have no platform to build off and in turn, don't have the scoring Opportunites needed to win a game or in the Warriors case get back into the match.

When the Warriors did get into good field position, they delivered poor last tackle options.
Whoever the attack coach is for the Warriors they need to ship up or ship out as their gameplan is schoolboy level and clearly not working and if it down to the halves going off script, then the need to be reigned in or dropped.

The Warriors struggled to get much possession in that first half, but when they did get it, that just gave it away with careless errors.
I have said it so often this season, but if you don't show the ball respect, you will get punished this match was proof of that.

Lastly was the defence, the Warriors missed 58 tackles, 58!
Several of the Raiders tries came after they waltzed through Warriors players feeble attempts that were embarrassing to watch live.
They didn't wrap the ball carrier up allowing the Raiders to offload almost at will and this second phase football destroyed the Warriors chances.

The Warriors have struggled to defend around the ruck area, and the Raiders took advantage of it with Josh Hodgson having a field day running out of dummy half.
The Warriors need to shore up that marker area as they are facing some top tier hookers in the upcoming weeks and they will be targeting this weakness. If the Warriors don't improve, it is going to be a rough ride.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior of the match goes to Chanel Harris-Tavita.
Kodi Nikorima's injury was unfortunate, but it allowed Chanel to inject himself into the game and show everyone why he should have been out there from the start.
While the rest of the playmakers have been one-note, Chanel shows creativity and desire. He is the only half that was able to give the Warriors legitimate scoring chances on the last tackle.
Even the tries he scored highlighted his desire with him always hovering around the ball carrier ready for an offload.
He needs to be starting for the rest of the season, and in my opinion, he should be taking the spot of my warrior that needs to improve.

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My Warrior to improve goes to Blake Green.
At the start of the season, I was worried about what would happen to the Warriors if Green was to get injured, but now with the advantage of hindsight. I think the Warriors attack looks better when he isn't there.
Green is an experienced half, but what he has been delivering with his game management has been nothing short of rookie level.
2019 season is over so it's time to get the 2020 halves combination of Kodi and Chanel some game time together so they can gel before next season starts.
If Kodi's ankle injury means that he is out this week, I would reunite Chanel and Adam Keighran in the halves again as Green is stunting the Warriors attack not improving it.

Round 21 has the Warriors at home once again, hosting the Manly Sea Eagles.
Manly looked great against the Knights last week and will be looking at repeating that performance in a bid to secure a top-four spot.
Injuries will not help the Warriors, and it looks like Karl Lawton and Kodi Nikorima may both be out of this match, this leaves a massive hole at hooker and Jazz Tevaga isn't a hooker so the Warriors will need to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they are to compete this week.
I don't see it happening though, and I feel like it is going to be a long five weeks for Warriors fans, so I'm picking Manly by 18.

So that was my take on an embarrassing round 20 performance, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions?

Do you have a Warrior of the match?
With games against Manly and the Rabbitohs left, will the Warriors win again at Mount Smart?
If Nikorima and Lawton are out, who would be your hooker and halves?
What is your score prediction for round 21?

Monday, 29 July 2019

NZ Warriors Round 19 Review: Heartbreak at Bankwest

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After last weeks victory in the Cake Tin, the Warriors once again made the journey over the ditch to face the Parramatta Eels at the impressive Bankwest Stadium.
A win here would have kept the Warriors playoff dreams alive, but it wasn't to be as the Eels were victorious here in a match that will, unfortunately, be remembered more for the officiating than the entertaining display that both sides delivered.

What a disappointing game.
On the plus side, it was exciting to watch and felt like it had all the stakes of a playoff match. On the negative side, some of the calls were head-scratching, to say the least.
I don't like talking about referees or their performances. Regardless of how poor they are, you should not leave your fate in their hands (although there will be some more on the officials further below).

I thought the Warriors played well for most of the game, but there were still issues.
The Warriors started 2019, putting it bluntly as a soft team. Opposition teams only had to play 60 minutes, and the Warriors would fold towards the end, however, for the past 6 weeks, the Warriors have shown tremendous heart.
Teams, unfortunately, can still defeat the Warriors but man they have to work for it.
The Match wasn't all doom and gloom though which leads me to my positives from the match.

The back three shone in this performance with all three running over 100 metres.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck lead from the front with 267 metres and Ken Maumalo wasn't far behind with 243 metres.
Sheck is the heart of this team without a doubt when all seems lost, the Warriors can always rely on RTS to turn a half-chance into a scoring opportunity, the rest of the side just needs to move closer to his level.
The impact these two have had this season has been outstanding, and I expect them to finish 2019 strong, Maumalo is still on track to end the season as the leading try scorer if he can keep his strike rate up.

The forward's form continues to improve. Lead by Paasi and Ah Mau the forwards ran hard all night and helped the Warriors surge into the Eels half, they still need to improve their defence around the ruck area, but there's no question that they are improving.
After criticising the Warriors interchange rotation for the majority of the season, I think Kearney has finally got a good thing going.
The Forwards need to keep this level of performance going for the final six rounds if the Warriors are to sneak into the top eight.

Having a 9-2 penalty count piled against them, the Warriors should have not been in this match at all let alone in a position to win it, and that kind of effort gives me confidence that the Warriors can still have a final stab at the top eight.

There were issues, too; however, which leads me to my negatives.

The penalties need to come down, I know many will claim that some of the calls were incorrect, but there were several that were just poor discipline.
If the officials treat the Warriors differently as some fans claim then the Warriors need to ensure they keep their noses squeaky clean, give no reasons to be pinged and watch the penalty count drop.

The Warriors defence has improved, but two of the Eels tries were essentially length of the field tries due to poor defence.
Tightening up the ruck defence is the main priority for the New Zealand side but their second concern will be wrapping the ball carrier up to eliminate that second phase football that continues to hurt them.
With games against the Raiders, Sharks and Roosters coming up the Warriors defence needs to be ironclad.

My last negative is once again the Warriors 5th tackle options, the Warriors last tackle options leave a lot to be desired, but it showed some improvement with the addition of Chanel Harris-Tavita.
Blake Green was hit or miss for me in this match, making some great decisions but then also having some howlers.
However, if the forwards continue charging up the middle and the back three kept doing their thing, then the halves should have plenty of time and space to create scoring opportunities.

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My Warrior of the match goes to Chanel Harris-Tavita.
With Kodi's injury last week, Chanel returned to the Warriors starting line up for the first time since round 8 and did not miss a step.
One of my biggest complaints for the past month has been the Warriors lack of 5th tackle options, and Chanel's presence helped in that department.
His kicking game added dimension to the Warriors attack and his defensive effort was outstanding, after this display you cannot leave Chanel out of the Warriors 17, dare I say 13 for the rest of the season.
This kid is a talent and has shown that he is not overawed by the occasion when playing first grade and I think the Warriors need to start using Chanel and Kodi as their starting halves sooner rather than later.

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I couldn't pick a Warrior to improve this week, so I have gone with the Officials.
At Graham Annesley's press conference today, he acknowledged that there were two incorrect stripping calls, an incorrect bunker call for Sivos 2nd try, Papali'is missed knock-on which leads to Lukes try, and that Tuivasa-Shecks pass was too close to call.
This poor showing has resulted in both the refs and touch judges being relegated this week.

Personally, I felt the Warriors were hard done by in this match, but I watch all the games, and I think that the referees are poor the majority of the time and show no signs of improvement. Dropping these refs will not fix the issues, and the NRL need to look at how they can fix it.
I don't know what they can do either, perhaps move back to having one referee and maybe incorporating a Captains challenge similar to what they have in cricket. Give the Captain's one challenge a half, and if you use it and overturn the decision you keep the challenge, you get it wrong, you lose it.
I'm sure there are brighter minds than mine in the NRL that can bring solutions to the table to fix the officiating and let the football be the topic at the water coolers again instead of the men with the Whistles.

Round 20 has the Warriors finally return to Mount Smart, hosting the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders have had a great year to date and will be a real challenge.
With Issac Luke most likely missing the next two weeks due to suspension, I personally would move Kodi Nikorima to hooker and keep Chanel partnered with Green in the halves.

I have gone a run picking against the Warriors for the past fortnight, but this week I'm picking the Warriors, the Warriors will be disappointed after Round 19 and will be looking at making a statement, so I'm picking the Warriors to win here by 8.

So that was my take on a heartbreaking round 19, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

If Issac Luke is out, who would be your hooker this week?
How can the NRL fix the Referee issues that have plagued the 2019 season?
Who was your player of the match?
What is your score prediction for Round 20?

Monday, 22 July 2019

NZ Warriors Round 18 Review: Warriors season still alive after heart-stopping victory over Sharks

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After the disappointing draw in Round 17, the Warriors returned to New Zealand taking their home match to Westpac Stadium, hosting the Cronulla Sharks who after four losses in a row were desperate to get back into the winner's circle.
It wasn't to be as the Warriors came from behind, keeping their season alive with a nailbiting 19-18 victory.

I will admit that I was not confident that the Warriors would get a win here. I predicted the Sharks to win by eight here and on my drive down to Wellington for the match. The news of Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a not being fit to play pushed my confidence down further.
But I have never been happier to be wrong as the Warriors showed determination and a desire to win that has been sorely absent for most of 2019.
Adam Pompey did not disappoint in his debut, Blake Ayshford was also solid in his return. Fans, however, will still be hopeful that Maumalo and Fusitu'a are back for Round 19.

The Sharks have been in a slump for the past month. The frustration within the team was clearly evident as they essentially allowed the Warriors back into this match via silly errors and brain snaps.
The Warriors have lacked confidence this season, but this match should have given that a much-needed boost as they head into the final stage of the season.
There is still plenty of improvement in this side, but they can hold their heads high after this match, which leads me to my positives from the game.

With Maumalo not being able to play in this match, the Warriors forwards needed to pull their weight more than ever. And for the most part, they did with five of the pack running for over 100 metres.
Ken is vital in the start of the Warriors sets but if the pack can continue to perform like this when he returns the Warriors will be in prime position to continue notching up wins.

The Warriors dominated possession and territory, forcing the Sharks to fight out of their own red zone for the majority off their sets. The Warriors didn't convert this dominance into a lot of points (more on that below), but I believe with their confidence returning the points will start to flow if they can keep their opponents camped in their own half.

After their Golden Point defeat in round 15 and last weeks draw. It appeared that the Warriors did not have the playmakers to set up and get those narrow victories. The Warriors were smart in the final stages of this match surging up the field and allowing Blake Green to nail what was unbelievably a career first field goal.
Taking the penalties when on offer was smart even if I wasn't happy about it at the time. In the wet conditions with a Sharks team failing to keep their discipline in check, nailing those penalties keep the scoreboard ticking over and more importantly allowed the Warriors to keep hold of possession.

Lastly, I want to highlight Westpac Stadium, I haven't gone to a league match at the Cake Tin before, and I loved it.
The central location gave plenty of options for a drink both before and after the game (shout out to the View from the East stand lads who I briefly caught up with before kickoff), and despite the weather, my seats were pretty good too.
If the Warriors take a game to Wellington next season, I will be making the trip down once again.

The match wasn't perfect, though, which leads me to my negatives.

My biggest concern was the lack of execution, although the Warriors had the lion share of territory they struggled to convert it into points.
Blake Green was running the ball a lot. But for some reason, he was often doing it on the fourth tackle meaning that Kodi Nikorima had to take control of the last tackle options and as he has done for the majority of his time with the Warriors he chose to run it on the last.
The Warriors need to stop doing this so often as it is not bearing fruit. In the wet conditions, it was the perfect opportunity to either kick the ball high or place grubbers through, putting more pressure on the Sharks and ultimately lead to more tries.

The Warriors defence around the ruck area still needs plenty of work, the Sharks made them pay with sniping runs out of dummy half. Unless they tighten up the middle, you can expect the opposition in the upcoming rounds focus on attack the Warriors straight up the middle.

My last negative is errors. The Warriors completed 83% of their sets, but they still continue to make errors while in scoring positions. Errors on the first tackle of the set or directly off a scrum are coach killers and need to be scrubbed out if the Warriors are to keep their season alive.

Copyright Photo: Photosport
My Warrior of the match goes to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
It was hard this week as Blake Green was key to the Warriors winning this match, but with his constant running on the fourth I had to go with Roger.
Despite the Warrior topsy turvy season, Roger is one of a select few players in the squad that have been consistently performing.
Rogers game stats have been through the roof for the past five weeks and this week was no different with the Fullback leading the Warriors in running metres and line breaks.
The great thing for Warriors fans and the scary thing for the opposition is that at 26 years of age, the best is yet to come from the current Dally M medalist.

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My Warrior to improve was just as hard, but it goes to Isaiah Papali'i.
Unfortunately, Papali'i was guilty of some of those errors mentioned above, and he also made some poor defensive reads, which resulted in scoring opportunities for the Sharks.
He is only in his second year in first grade, and at his young age, this is merely a hiccup. I know he will continue to grow and develop and be a better player for it.

Round 19 has the Warriors heading to the impressive Bankwest Stadium to face the Parramatta Eels.
The Eels have had a good season so far but lost in a high scoring affair in round 18 against the Manly Sea Eagles.
More troublesome for the Warriors is that the Eels have a 6-2 record at Bankwest and will be confident that they can make it 7-2 on Saturday night.

A win here could even see the Warriors creep into the top eight for the first time since round 2.
The Warriors should hopefully see the return of Maumalo and Fusitu'a (perhaps even Patrick Herbert will be back too), which will strengthen the side's attacking ability.
If the Warriors can keep the Eels camped in their own half like they did to the Sharks, then they will be well on the way to victory.
Unfortunately, I don't see the Warriors getting the win here. The Eels will be hurting from their round 17 defeat and will be looking at making a statement in front of their vocal home crowd, so I'm picking the Eels to win by 14.

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

Now sitting at ninth on the ladder, do you see the Warriors creeping into the top eight?
Who was your Warrior of the day, and your Warrior to improve?
Who has been your Warrior of the season?
What is your score prediction for Round 19?




Monday, 15 July 2019

NZ Warriors Round 17 Review: Warriors squander lead in nail-biting draw

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After last weeks narrow victory over the Knights, the Warriors were on the road once again this time heading to Suncorp Stadium to face a Brisbane Broncos outfit brimming with confidence after their defeat of the Cronulla Sharks.
With both teams sitting on 6 wins and 9 losses, walking away with a victory here was crucial to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Despite leading 16-6 at half-time, the Warriors could not get the job done as the Broncos clawed their way back into the match and forced the game into golden point where neither team was able to gain the upper hand resulting in the first draw since 2016.

What to say about this performance?
I knew this match was going to be tough, but after that first-half lead, I thought the Warriors were well on the way to securing the win here, but it looked like they stopped trying to win the match and were too focused on holding onto the lead.
The injury to Ken Maumalo in the second half didn't help matters, and his absence left a massive hole in the Warriors attacking sets, and their last tackle options left a lot to be desired (more on that below).

It was yet another game that the Warriors should have won this year and it's frustrating to see them let precious competition points slip through their fingers once again, but at least they walked away with a point which leads me to my positives from the match.

The Warriors looked dangerous in the first half, running with intent and creating opportunities almost at will.
Peta Hiku was linking well once again with Maumalo, and they were causing headaches for the Broncos all night until Maumalo left the field, Hiku's move to the wing dampened his impact on the game slightly, but he still provided some strong runs.

Against a sizeable forward pack, the Warriors pack fronted on the attack and were in the fight for the majority of the contest, the platform they set allowed Kodi Nikorima to create some opportunities for the backline, and if the pack can keep that form going this week, you can expect to see some exciting tries.

The fitness shone again, playing for 90 minutes is no easy feat, and some of the Warriors had ridiculous stats, Tuivasa-Shecks 367 running metres and Jazz Tevaga's 72 tackles (not including Jazz ran for 184 metres also) being the standouts.
You can be disappointed in the result, but it would be unfair to not praise the individual efforts by many of the men on that field, combining those efforts as a team was where they let themselves down.

Speaking of letdowns, that leads me to my negatives from the performance.

The Warriors last tackle options were terrible, against the Knights the Warriors were making great inroads with grubber kicks, but in this match, they almost always decided to run on the last.
Nikorima has plenty of pace and can create something out of nothing at times, but they cannot do this on every set.
Blake Green needs to step up and take control of this team or move out of the way for Chanel.

The forwards may have had a good night on attack, but their defence needs work, the Warriors were weak up the middle of the park, and the Broncos took advantage, charging up the middle and utilising some nice inside balls to unleash Payne Haas and Tevita Pangai Junior.
The Warriors need to sort out their ruck defence now as the Sharks will be charging up the middle of the park all night long on Friday night.

The errors and penalties in the second half turned the tide in favour of the home team, and the Warriors have been guilty of silly mistakes all year.
Perhaps it's a case of low confidence, but when the pressure comes, the Warriors tend to fold right now, playoff hopes may be gone, but if the Warriors can sort this out, they will at least get themselves a chance to end the season on a high note.

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I never thought I would do this, but my Warrior of the night was Adam Blair.
This was Blair's best game since he joined the New Zealand club, a superb solo effort try, 188 running metres and 31 tackles rounded out a good night for the veteran second rower.
With Tohu Harris still out with injury, the Warriors need this version of Blair to stick around and lead the pack from the front.

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My Warrior to improve goes to the other second rower Isaiah Papali'i.
Papali'i did make 50 tackles, but it has been apparent in 2019 that his attack needs some work, he is prone to handling errors and makes poor decisions with the ball in hand too often.
With the wingers this team has, the second rower's ability to link with the centres to create overlaps to unleash Fusitu'a and Mauamlo in the corners is crucial, and right now you cannot bank on Papali'i being that link.
He is young and still has plenty of time to develop, and I'm hopeful that he will grow into a balance footballer and not spend his career being a tackling machine.

Round 18 sees the Warriors take a home game to Wellington when they host the Cronulla Sharks.
The Sharks have not had the best run of form recently and will be looking at turning their fortunes around with a win in the Cake Tin.
The Warriors, on the other hand, need to get the win here if they want to keep their slim top eight hopes alive.
Ken Maumalo should be fit to return, and the Sharks sound like they will be without Shaun Johnson, Josh Dugan, Josh Morris and Andrew Fifita so if the Warriors have a decent chance of getting the win here.
I don't see it unfortunately as I'm picking the Sharks to come away with the win here by 10.

It should be a good game, however, and I'm making the journey down the island to watch it in my first live game away from Mount Smart in what feels like an age.
I'm looking forward to the trip and hopefully will be able to catch up with some of you who are also making the trip.
I will be keeping an eye out of Facebook for where everyone is meeting up before the match and will let you know where I am on my page so if you see me having drinks before the game come and have a chat.

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

How would you fix the Warriors second-half collapses?
Who was your player of the match and player to improve?
Who would be your starting lock, Tevaga or Burr?
Are you travelling to the Cake Tin and what is your prediction for Round 18?

Monday, 8 July 2019

NZ Warriors Round 16 Review: Warriors second half bounce back secures win over depleted Knights

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After last weeks disappointing Golden Point defeat, the Warriors made the journey to Newcastle to face a Knights side missing 6 of their regular first graders.
Desperate to keep their season alive, the Warriors did enough to walk away the victors 24-20

This was always going to be a tough match to review, a win for the Warriors would have had an asterisk next to it due to the number of players the Knights had out, but a defeat would have been unacceptable due to the Knights missing talent.

I was nervous before the game, the Warriors had a similar situation last year when they played a Panthers side minus their stars and were well and truly humbled, so I was glad the Warriors did not take the Knights lightly.
The first half was forgettable (more on that below), but the Warriors came out in the second half and fought their way back into the match with the much-needed return of second phase football.
It wasn't an excellent performance by any stretch but seeing the Warriors wanting the result more than their opponents for the first time in a while left me with a smile on my face which leads me to my positives.

I'm not sure what was said by Kearney or the senior players at halftime, but it worked.
Being down 12-2 at the break, I was almost resigned to the fact that the Warriors were done for, due to how many times this season the Warriors collapsed in the second half.
I still think the Warriors playoff hopes are over, but if the Warriors can perform for the rest of the season like they did in this second half, then they may string some wins together and creep up the ladder.

With injuries to Karl Lawton, Bunty Afoa and Peta Hiku, the Warriors spent a lot of the second half with a reduced bench, this meant that the forwards had to play extended minutes and I thought they did well.
My standouts were Agnatius Paasi, Lachlan Burr and Sam Lisone.
Paasi was strong up front, running for 152metres and relentless with his tackling, the sin-bin was unfortunate but was expected as the Warriors were trying to wind down the clock.
Burr had a strong showing and continues to be one of my favourites this season, he adds much-needed size to the pack, and his offloads helped get the Warriors into scoring situations, the Warriors continue to perform better when he is on the field, so I hope that he returns to the starting 13 next week.
And then there was Lisone, I think this was the best performance from Sam in a long time, running strong but also showing his passing game feeding the forwards outside him with some clinical passes.
He performance was rewarded with a try, and if he can perform like this regularly, he may find himself back first-grade fulltime and perhaps even get a new contract.

Lastly, it was good to see the return of the offloads, 10 in total.
The Warriors are at their best when they get into second phase allowing their talent in their backline to tear defences to shreds.
If the Offloads stick around, the Warriors give themselves a higher chance of walking away with the two points.

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

That first half was horrible, even though the Warriors had a few scoring chances for the majority of the first 40 minutes they Warriors were guilty of the predictable attack that has plagued them for the majority of the 2019 season.
One out running with an aimless kick on the fifth is not NRL level let alone top-eight material, so the Warriors need to eliminate it from their game.
The Warriors showed what they can do when they unshackle their talented players, so they just need to come out of the gates with that mentality.

The Warriors discipline and error rate continues to hurt them, with the Warriors guilty of back to back penalties several times throughout the game.
With an increase in offloads, you can expect an increase in errors, but the Warriors just need to show the ball more respect and reduce the low percent passes and hold onto the ball better when going into contact.
Against a stronger side, these penalties and errors may have sealed the Warriors fate as early as halftime, so they just need to reign them back.

My last negative has nothing to do with either side, it is with the officials.
The referees have been poor more often than not in 2019, but this match was genuinely baffling.
It wasn't just against the Warriors either as the Knights were hard done by with some incorrect calls (One of Maumalo's tries appeared to have a forward pass involved), but the Bunker denied a certain try for Ken, gave the Knights six more tackles after it looked like Mason Lino knocked the ball.

My biggest issue during the match was when the Peta Hiku was knocked into next week, and the game was not stopped.
The Ref said that a trainer needed to advise him of the situation despite Gavin Badger being right next to Hiku staring directly at him, the Knights did score right after this, but when player safety is one of the big talking points this year it was inexcusable to see the play continue.
Im not sure what the NRL can do to fix the issues but coming out during the week and saying sorry does not cut it, the refs are basically infallible with the players and coaches not allowed to say much about their performance so what can be done.
I think the officials need to be treated like the players, you have a shocker you get dropped, if there are consequences to poor performance, then the chances of a better performance should improve.

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My Warrior of the match goes once again to Ken Maumalo.
240 metres, 2 (should have been 3) tries and now sitting tied at the top of the NRL tryscoring leaderboard with 12.
He is head and shoulders above the rest of his team-mates this year almost down to his consistency alone, even if he doesn't cross the chalk to score he is always crucial in getting the Warriors into scoring positions with his devasting runs.
There is a chance that the Warriors could have their wingers go back to back as the NRL's top try scorer, I've had a look and could not find any other teams able to claim that feat, so fingers crossed for big Ken's form to continue.

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My Warrior to improve goes to Gerard Beale.
In his defence, he was a late call-up for Patrick Herbert, but he had me pulling my hair out in this match.
On several occasions, he had the chance to put David Fusitu'a into space but chose to go alone in Kata like fashion.
People criticise Hiku a lot, but he knows how to get his winger over the line, and that is what the Warriors need to do with a strike weapon like Fusitu'a.
If Herbert is out again this week, Beale will have a chance at redemption, and I hope he takes it.

Round 17 has the Warriors once again in Australia, this time facing the Brisbane Broncos.
The Warriors need to string wins together, and the Broncos are in a crisis of confidence right now sitting 14th on the ladder.
This gives the Warriors a good chance of getting a win here, but the Broncos showed how dangerous they can be with their win over the Sharks.
If the Warriors forwards perform like they did in the second half against the Knights and the Warriors halves put pressure on Darius Boyd, then they should be able to walk away with the win.
The Warriors have already tasted victory at Suncorp in 2019 and im backing them to win again this time by 8.

So that was my take on an improved round 16, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

What would you do to improve the refereeing in the NRL?
Who was your player of the match and player to improve?
Do you think the Warriors have a shot at top eight still?
What is your score prediction for Round 17?


Monday, 1 July 2019

NZ Warriors Round 15 Review: Warriors woes continue in Golden Point heartbreak

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After last week's break for the international matches and State of Origin, the Warriors were home hosting a confident Penrith Panthers side looking for their fifth victory in a row while the Warriors were looking for their first home win since round 4.
The home crowd were left disappointed as despite losing two men to the sin-bin, the Panthers were too good for the Warriors claiming a 19-18 victory in Golden Point.

Well, what can you say about that performance?
The Warriors appeared to have the win in the bag when they were leading 16-12 with only three minutes remaining but sitting in the stands I had a bad feeling that the Panthers were going to get out of jail and unfortunately my feeling was correct.
I'm unsure as to what happened, maybe the Warriors thought the game was over and took their foot off the gas, or perhaps they were just lucky to be ahead and were always staring down the barrel of defeat.

The absence of Tohu Harris had a visible effect, with the Warriors defensive line missing his large frame and I think they missed Lachlan Burr also, the Panthers have a large pack and missing two of the larger bodies in the squad took its toll.
Jazz Tevaga got his chance to start at lock and in my opinion, I don't think it worked, Jazz always plays his best football in limited minutes for my mind as when he is out there for an extended period his error rate climbs tenfold.
Hopefully, Burr returns next week taking that lock spot back and improving the Warriors defence in the middle.

There wasn't a lot to praise in this performance, but it wasn't all doom and gloom, which leads me to my positives.

David Fusitu'a was more active in this match, he is always up for taking hit ups, but he appeared to be running with intent and searching for opportunities. He finally returned to the scoreboard (although the try should not have been awarded as he was out, unfortunately) and if he can get himself into the match more in the future, we could see more tries in his future.

On the other edge, Ken was strong once again, he got the Warriors out of trouble with several of his trademark barnstorming runs.
Ken continues to go from strength to strength and has definitely put his hand up as one of the Warriors best performers in 2019.

Lastly, I think the front row had a good night more specifically Bunty Afoa and Karl Lawton. Afoa ran for well over 150metres and offered as much impact on his last hit up as he did on his first. The Warriors could do with at least one more player in Bunty's mould to try and get an advantage up front.
Karl Lawton had a strong game but for some reason was not used for an extended period, if Roache had not got injured Lawton probably would not have got back on the park which would have been a mistake.
Lawton is lethal sniping out of dummy half and is always ready to capitalise on slow markers and im glad that he has been re-signed as he has potential in spades.

Unfortunately, there were quite a few negatives to go over so I will just get into it.

Although the Warriors finally got away from the one out running that has plagued them this season, but unfortunately, the Warriors still lacked good 5th tackle options.
Blake Greens kicking game is not going to make the Warriors a force and Kodi Nikorima barely has a kicking game at all.
If the Warriors want to crawl out of the hole they have got themselves in they need to sort out their last tackle options, even if they just started kicking towards Fusitu'a in the corner, just try something as running on the last almost every time isn't working.

The Warriors defence was dreadful, the missed tackle that lead to Brent Naden's 85metre try was a coach killer, but the Warriors were constantly guilty of not wrapping the Panthers up and were punished with plenty of offloads.
Improve that defensive effort and victories become that much easier to obtain.

The lack of a killer instinct was disheartening, playing 20 minutes of the match with more players on the park should have guaranteed victory for the Warriors, but they only score two tries on that time.
They were well ahead on the penalty count too and should have taken advantage and piled on all the points they could.

My last negative is Nathaniel Roache's injury, as of writing the results of his scan haven't been announced but it looks like an ACL injury.
I feel for Roache as he is a hell of a talent, but his body continues to let him down, as hard as it may be for him he may need to look at new career options as his body just does not appear to want to let him play first grade.
I mean no disrespect to Roache, and I hope this injury isn't significant and he can get himself healthy and playing first grade consistently.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warriors of the match goes to Bunty Afoa.
Bunty was a standout in the pack in this match, running with purpose and was head and shoulders above his fellow front rowers.
Being a front rower is often a thankless job, and you take a beating and Bunty can undoubtedly take a licking and continued charging forward and was rewarded with a try.
I fully expect him to continue his rampaging ways as the 2019 season continues.

Copyright Photo: Getty Images
My Warrior that needs to improve goes to Patrick Herbert.
Herbert has had an excellent start to his Warriors career, but this was undoubtedly a low-point for the young centre.
His defence was left wanting, and that missed tackle on Naden will define his performance in this match.
His goal kicking was also uncharacteristically poor missing two of his three attempts.
Herbert is a great talent, and he will bounce back from this performance and be all the better for it.

Round 16 sees the Warriors head across the ditch to face the Newcastle Knights.
The Knights were strong in their match against the Broncos and are going to be tough.
Issac Luke and Lachlan Burr should return to the side for this match, and the Warriors will need to be at their best if they want to walk away with the much needed two points.

Unfortunately, I don't see it happening, I think the Knights are going to be too good here and will defeat the Warriors by 12.

So that was a disappointing round 15, and as usual, I will leave you with some questions.

Who was your player of the day?
How would you improve the game day 17?
Who would be your starting lock, Jazz or Lachlan?
What is your score prediction for Round 16?