War­riors now fac­ing an all too fa­mil­iar sce­nario

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - MARVIN FRANCE Si­mon Man­ner­ing

The War­riors’ an­nual mid-sea­son re­vival is of­fi­cially un­der way. Now for the hard part – keep­ing it up.

Fri­day night’s hard-fought win over the Bull­dogs at Mt Smart was the side’s third from their last four games to leave them on the cusp of the top eight on 16 points.

We have all seen this story play out be­fore; an in­con­sis­tent start to the sea­son fol­lowed by a strong run of re­sults dur­ing the State of Ori­gin pe­riod only to crash and burn with the play­offs in sight.

It re­mains to be seen if that pat­tern con­tinue but one thing is for sure, it only get tougher from here on in.

The pos­i­tive sign, though, is that play­ers are well aware they are still some way off from where they need to be.

‘‘We’ve just got to string con­sis­tent per­for­mances to­gether,’’ vet­eran back­rower Si­mon Man­ner­ing said.

‘‘I don’t think we’re there yet, we’re head­ing in the right di­rec­tion but there’s still so many things we can be bet­ter on.

‘‘When it gets later on in the com­pe­ti­tion teams get a lot more des­per­ate for the two points. It gets harder and harder and you have to be bet­ter for it.’’

In­deed, the War­riors face a big step up next week when they make the long trip to Perth to play the fifth-placed Sea Ea­gles.

The War­riors are 0-8 in the Western Aus­tralian cap­i­tal but with a sec­ond bye the fol­low­ing week, should they some­how man­age to break that hoodoo they will head into the fi­nal third of the sea­son well placed to snap their fi­nals drought.

The team can take plenty from the per­for­mance against the Bull­dogs.

Mi­nus Kieran Fo­ran and Solomone Kata and with Is­sac Luke forced off in the 33rd minute due to a suspected dis­lo­cated shoul­der, the War­riors pro­duced a com­posed dis­play be­fore hold­ing their nerve in the face of a late Can­ter­bury resur­gence.

One of the more pleas­ing as­pects for coach Stephen Kear­ney was their abil­ity to stick to the game plan, con­stantly turn­ing the big Bull­dogs pack around in the greasy con­di­tions cour­tesy of a brilliant kick­ing dis­play from Shaun John­son and an equally strong chase.

With Fo­ran out, John­son needed to step will will up. There was noth­ing flashy from the half­back but, apart from a cou­ple of poor op­tions in the red zone, he con­trolled the game well and made the smart de­ci­sion to kick a field goal with 10 min­utes left to kill the Bull­dogs’ mo­men­tum.

The for­wards also con­tin­ued their grad­ual im­prove­ment, more than hold­ing their own against a for­mi­da­ble Bull­dogs pack.

Man­ner­ing was im­mense as usual, qui­etly rack­ing up 60 tack­les and run­ning for 155m and to­gether with James Gavet, who re­turned from in­jury to pro­duce an­other barn­storm­ing dis­play, led the way for the rest to fol­low.

‘‘I thought he re­ally lifted us, es­pe­cially with his de­fence he was re­ally phys­i­cal and forced a cou­ple of er­rors,’’ Man­ner­ing said of Gavet.

‘‘He was out­stand­ing as were a num­ber of oth­ers. It was a real team ef­fort, ev­ery­one It gets harder and harder and you have to be bet­ter for it. did their job and at the end of the day that’s what gets wins.’’

The one ma­jor down­side was the in­jury to Luke, who had hit a pur­ple patch of form in re­cent weeks.

While the Kiwi hooker’s shoul­der will be mon­i­tored through­out the week, Kear­ney said he had good range of move­ment in the joint im­me­di­ately af­ter the game. Al­though with the bonus of the bye fol­low­ing the Manly clash, it is hard to see him mak­ing the trip to Perth.

Nathaniel Roache de­liv­ered a vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion in Luke’s ab­sence, thriv­ing with the ex­tra time on the field af­ter av­er­ag­ing less than 10 min­utes per game in his eight pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances.

Kear­ney has op­tions at hooker in the form of Jazz Te­vaga and mid-sea­son sign­ing Manaia Cher­ring­ton, but Man­ner­ing said Roache was more than ca­pa­ble of play­ing 80 min­utes if re­quired.

‘‘He’s a con­fi­dent kid and when he gets a chance to run he backs him­self so he could start a game and def­i­nitely fin­ish it.’’


The War­riors cel­e­brate a Ken Mau­malo try against the Bull­dogs on Fri­day night.

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