Kear­ney de­fends un­der-fire for­wards

The Press - - Sport - Marvin France

War­riors coach Stephen Kear­ney has stood up for his for­wards as they at­tempt to put the bat­ter­ing dished out by the Roost­ers be­hind them.

The Roost­ers came to Mt Smart last week with a clear plan to tar­get the War­riors through the mid­dle and the home team failed to match them, which set the stage for the 32-0 drub­bing.

In all three of the War­riors’ losses this sea­son (against the Bron­cos, Storm and Roost­ers) they have been out­mus­cled up front, lead­ing to ques­tions about whether the Auck­land club can com­pete with the stronger packs in the NRL.

But to bor­row one of the War­riors’ long-time mot­tos, Kear­ney is keep­ing the faith with his men in the mid­dle.

As they head into to­mor­row’s clash against Par­ra­matta, Kear­ney said he has seen enough across the first 10 rounds to be con­fi­dent in their abil­ity to go for­ward.

‘‘We did a pretty good job against the Dragons. Every­one’s talk­ing about them be­ing the best for­ward pack in the com­pe­ti­tion,’’ Kear­ney said.

‘‘That’s not an is­sue. We’d like to be bet­ter than we were on Satur­day night, there’s no doubt about that.

‘‘When we’ve played our best footy our for­wards have laid a pretty good plat­form for us. They’ve done a pretty good job in seven out of 10 games so that’s enough for me.’’

In­deed, when the team has per­formed this year it has been on the back of hard, di­rect run­ning from the likes of Bunty Afoa, Aga­natius Paasi and Sam Lisone.

But the last five weeks have shown the War­riors have yet to get to grips fully with the weekly grind of the NRL.

Skip­per Roger Tuiv­asa-Sheck said the en­tire squad was given a valu­able les­son last week about the im­por­tance of turn­ing up with the right at­ti­tude.

‘‘The NRL is a real tough com­pe­ti­tion,’’ Tuiv­asa-Sheck said.

‘‘We can al­ways bring the en­ergy to train­ing, be real keen to play but when you have a team like the Roost­ers who came out and they wanted it a bit more than us, they were a bit more hun­gry than us, that just shows that when you’re ready to go on the day you get the win.’’

While the last five weeks have shown that the War­riors are still a work in progress, they have de­vel­oped a good track record of bounc­ing back from poor per­for­mances.

Last month’s loss to the Bron­cos was fol­lowed by a colos­sal de­fen­sive dis­play to hand the com­pe­ti­tion-lead­ing Dragons their first de­feat.

They were also far too good for the Wests Tigers a week af­ter be­ing em­bar­rassed by Mel­bourne on An­zac Day.

And af­ter the play­ers were left ‘‘hurt’’ by their ef­fort against the Roost­ers, Kear­ney has been pleased by their re­ac­tion at train­ing.

‘‘In this com­pe­ti­tion it’s about pick­ing your­self and own­ing your per­for­mance,’’ the coach said. ‘‘We ad­dressed that the next day with our re­view process and worked on a way for­ward.’’

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