Saturday, April 25, 2009

There have been many things said about various Warriors side over the past fifteen years, but one thing that the current side can not be accused of, is lacking strong mental fortitude. They possess excesses of what is a rather handy tool, having come back for the second week in a row from a deficit. This time however they could not snatch a victory, having to settle for a 14-14 draw with the Melbourne Storm.

In a game played in terrible conditions, both teams produced what was a high standard of football, despite mother nature's worst intentions. It was end to end stuff.

The storm, after a slow first ten minutes, dominated the next forty-five minutes of play, but after Will Chambers touched down in the Warriors right hand corner, they could not add to their tally for the remainder of the match.

In fact, it was the Warriors who came home the strongest and looked most likely to score a win.

The warriors opened the scoring with a 3rd minute penalty right in front of the Storms posts, to go 2-0 up. They were strong for the first ten minutes, but from there on in, it was the Storm who dominated the match until half-time, with the assistance of a strong wind behind their backs.

In the 12th minute, Cooper Cronk licked through for Steve Turner who regathered the kick on the full and dived over in the Warriors left hand corner next to the flag. With Cameron Smiths conversion this gave the Storm a 6-2 lead.

This was extended to 10-2 when Billy Slater scores again for the Storm, after Manu Vatuvei had dropped the ball on his own twenty metre line, handing over possession to the storm who spread the ball wide. Slater, who evaded the tacfkle of Denam Kemp, slid from two metres out to get the try. The conversion misses, in what was terrible conditions for goal kickers.

Despite struggling against good go forward from the Storm for most of the half, the Warriors manage to trouble the scoreboard in the 29th minute, after the Storm knock-on and then in the ensuing set of six, the Warriors get a penalty for the storm being inside the ten metres. The warriors spread the ball wide to the Storms right hand side, where Jerome Ropati off-loads to casual acquaintance Manu Vatuvei, who dives over for the try, despite the best efforts of three Melbourne defenders.

The conversion misses and 10-6 to the storm is where the score stays until after half-time.

Ivan Cleary would have been happy going into half-time only four points down, due to the strong wind his charges ran into during the first-half.

Not so happy he would have been in the 42nd minute, when Lance Hohaia drops a towering bomb Cooper Cronk and the storm regather. Brett Finch, playing his first game for Melbourne, since leaving Parramatta, immediately spreads the ball wide to Greg Inglis, who passes to Will Chambers, who scores in the Warriors right side corner. Another missed conversion leaves the score at 14-6 in favour of Melbourne.

This was to be the last time Melbourne inflicted any damage on the Warriors goal line, despite having the better of the next fifteen minutes of play.

From the 55th minute though, the momentum swung in a big way to the Warriors, who, thanks to strong games from their props, especially Sam Rapira, made good gains up the middle of the park.

And it was in the 55th minute that Manu Vatuvei got his second try of the evening. The warriors had been attacking the Storm's right side defence to good effect and had managed to get a repeat set of six. Russel Packer made good ground up the middle. On the next play the warriors go the Storms left side defence, where Hohaia off-loads to Vatuvei who dives over in the corner to bring the score back to 14-10.

Seven minutes later, Patrick Ah Van touched down after Nathan Fien does a run around play with Steve Price, and thanks to quick passing from Stacey Jones to Ben Mautilino, they put Ah Van across the chalk.

It's 14-all and the crowd of 15000 are on the edge of their seats for the last ten minutes of normal time, as both teams have unsuccessful attempts at field goal opportunities.

Stacey Jones has a chance to seal the victory in the 2nd minute of extra time, with a sitter of a field goal, right in front of the storms goalposts and only ten metres out. The ball ricochets off the upright, and is regathered by the Warriors, alas in an off-side position.

From the ensuing penalty, Melbourne work their way to the half way mark, where Cooper Cronk dutifully attempt to claim the win. But no, he misses, as the kick goes well wide, to the right of the posts.

Neither team could capitalise on chances for the remaining six minutes. Hohaia slotted a field-goal in the 90th minute, but this was off a Stacey Jones pass. Referee Tony Archer was unsure whether Jones had knocked on and referred it to the video ref, who denied the Goal.

After another twenty seconds of play, full time was blown on what turned out to be a an enthralling game of football.

The Warriors got extremely good service out of their props, with Rapira and Packer continuing to impress each week.

Lance Hohaia is fast becoming a player the Warriors can not do without. He is proof a player that is classed as a utility can still be a star and can contribute an considerable amount to a teams cause, without having to be in the starting line-up. Whatever his contract is, he is worth every dollar of it.

The most positive aspect of their performance was, apart from good defence, a tremendous kick-chase effort all night. On the whole, Melbourne where not given the opportunity to return the ball out of their own red zone with any great purchase.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Round 7-NRL Preview

Broncos vs Eels

Despite falling off in the second half in their last two matches, they have still got away with wins. And will here as well against an Eels side in dissaray. Broncos have an established halves pairing- the Eels got rid of their playmaker!
Broncos by 15

Rabbitohs vs Sharks

Rabbitts backed up last weekend from monday night football and were lethargic because of it, despite being up against a resurgent Manly team. No such problem here though. Expect them to bounce back against cellar-dwellers, the Cronulla Sharks.
Sharks have not sorted out their attack and until they do, they will continue to struggle.
Rabbitohs by 6

Roosters vs Dragons

Roosters were unlucky against the Stacey Jones inspired Warriors last week, losing in golden point. They dominated the first half with some good precision football, but forgot to concentrate for eighty minutes. Their halves were good and Anasta has a point to prove to the NSW selectors who dumped him from the state of origin squad.
Dragons got run down in the second half by Newcastle last week. Jamie Soward seems to be prospering under Wayne Bennetts tutulege and gets better each week.
Home ground to win this.
Roosters by 2

Storm vs Warriors

The Storm have struggled this year on attack, and they are up against the one team in the comp who doesn't fear them at the graveyard, the Warriors. Brett Finch, it is said, will not play, but expect this to change.Storm backing up from Monday and not many teams win backing up from mnday night football.Warriors still missing McKinnon but Hohaia is an able backup there. Warriors, like the Storm are not at their best on attack, and need to find a way to set alight one of the better backlines in the competition.
Warriors by 4

Cowboys vs Sea Eagles

Manly were just finding form again with Brett Stewart back in the team. Well, no longer. Stewart is out for twelve weeks and this will once again set the Eagles back. This and the fact that the Cowboys are hard to beat at the home of humidity, lends itself to a cowboys victory.
Cowboys by 6

Raiders vs Bulldogs

Both teams are exceeding expectations. The raiders are always a threat on attack. If a team scores thirty against them, they don't mind. They'll simply score thirty-two. Who needs defence! It remains to be seen if the Bulldogs are the real deal this year.
Canberra at home to win this with dazzling attack.
Canberra by 8

Tigers vs Knights

Tigers have home ground advantage, but are backing up from playing the Storm on monday. Knights have scored good wins against the Dragons and Warriors and will be confident here.
Knights by 4

Panthers vs Titans

Titans are top of the table, and with the best denfensive record in the comp. They will need it here against a Panthers team that have attacking weapons to burn. Titans have been tough mentally, winning both their last two games in tight exchanges. Panthers were better last week than the scoreline suggested against the Broncos.
Panthers by 2

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Warriors grab extra time victory

Despite a lacklustre first half and being 16-0 down at the half-time break, the Warriors have stormed home to a 17-16 extra time win over the Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland today. It wasn't their best football by any means, however they showed a willingness to hang in under pressure when things were not going their way, and fight back.

With Brent Tate out for the season, the Warriors desperately needed some of their other injured stars back, and they got their wish with the return of Steve Price, Manu Vatuvei and Lance Hohaia all returning. Hohaia filled in at fullback for the injured Wade McKinnon with Aidan Kirk being dropped from the line-up.

The first six minutes were tit for tat as both forward packs made good ground and had one chance each, but neither side could hold onto the ball at crucial times. In the seventh minute the Warriors were hard on attack and Lance Hohaia dived over besides the the Roosters right upright, but was adjudged to have lost control of the ball as he went to force it by the video referee.

Two minutes later the Roosters have a chance to score, but Joel Moon intercepts the last pass and diffuses the situation.

In the 18th minute the Roosters trap the Warriors in their own in-goal area and force a goal line drop-out. From the ensuing set of six, they spread the ball wide to the Soliola on the eastern side of the field who scores the try and points of the match, which Craig Fitzgibbon converts, to give the Roosters a 6-0 lead.

Three minutes after, the roosters once again trap the Warriors in goal and force another goal line drop-out. On tackle four of the next set, Roosters captain, Braith Anasta, pierces the Warriors defence and off-loads a short ball to Keith Shackleton, who dives over despite the best intentions of two would be tacklers. Referee Alan Shortall awards the try, despite the fact he clearly needs a pair of glasses to see the blatant forward pass from Anasta, that he misses.

Fitzgibbon conversion attempt hits the upright and misses. Roosters 10-0

In the 26th minute, all and sundry were subjected to what is possibly the most boring aspect of rugby league, the referees lecture. The players take no notice of what the referee is saying and the sooner referees boss, Robert Finch, tells his officials to stop the talking and start sinbinning, the better.

The Warriors never looked like being in the match for the rest of the half, conceding another try in the 36th minute, when Mitchell Pierce, son of New South Wales great, Wayne Pierce, scythed through the Warriors defence, beating three defenders on hi way to dotting down.

With Fitzgibbons conversion, this took the score to 16-0, where it remained until after half-time.

The Warriors had to make sixty more tackles than their counterparts in the first half and it was questionable whether they would have the energy to make a comeback. And comeback they did. This is a different Warriors outfit to some of the past and hanging in, is something they do well, nowadays. With the help of a raucous 16000 crowd, they mounted what was to be a most impressive second half renaissance.

Now, it is imperative that this paragraph is used to inform readers of this story of the imminent arrival on the scene of a very eminent fellow, in the minute fifty-and-two. A man. A man named Stacey. Stacey Jones that is. Having hid in the shadows of obscurity for the first 51 minutes, this man of shorter height stature, but one of lofty playing status, decides to impart his large amount of natural aptitude on the match, and from a scrum twenty out from the Roosters line, does a run around play and slashes past Anasta and Willie Mason to finally get the Warriors scoring account going.

The conversion is gained and the roosters have a ten point advantage, 16-6.

The warriors chant once again goes up and the home team start to dominate the match. Only a minute later, Jones kicks for the Roosters line and as Roosters fullback, SAM Perrott gathers the ball, Denam Kemp, chasing through knocks the ball loose. After a scrambe for the ball, the referee awards a Roosters goal line drop-out. The warriors threaten in the next set but Nathan Fien kick the ball too long.

Despite this the Warriors keep pounding the Roosters goal line and in the 61st minute, Stacey Jones puts up a bomb of pin point accuracy, that the Opposition fail to clean up and Jerome Ropati is on hand to dive on the spilled ball and bring the Warriors within four points after Kemp converts. Roosters 16-12.

The next eight minutes becomes a mistake ridden knock-on fest, as both teams do their best to give each other a bunch of splendid opportunities to close the match out. Neither side can though.

However the Warriors do even the score up in the 70th minute, as Jones puts up another bomb with equal accuracy as the one that Ropati scored from. This time it is big Manu Vatuvei, in his first match back from injury who pounces on the loose ball and touches down to bring the score back to sixteen a piece. The conversion from Kemp, despite heading in the right direction, prefers to pull up short, hence the score remains the same.

For the remaining eight minutes the Roosters look shot, and lost for notions. The Warriors make all the play with Sam Rapira particularly strong on the charge.

They have a chance two minutes from full time to close the match out, but Ian Henderson, instead of going right to Jones who has space and time to pot a goal, goes to Fien on the left. Fien attempts a drop goal but it is a rushed attempt and misses.

With that miss, the match goes into extra time. Price wins the toss and decides to kick-off, hoping to trap the Roosters deep in their own half. This cunning ploy decides not to avail itself in the affirmative and work as the Roosters manage to get to the half-way mark and kick on the last. Hohaia gathers the ball and manages to evade two defenders and scoot along the field for forty minutes, when inexplicably he decides to kick ahead despite having Kemp on his inside wih open space. The ball goes close to the sideline and as Perrot regathers for the Roosters, he is tackled by Kemp and manhandled over the sideline.

The Warriors get a scrum feed and head straight for the goal posts. On the Fourth tackle and in the third minute of extra time, local hero Jones slots the winning field goal, give the Warriors a hard fought one point victory.

For the Warriors, Jones was instrumental in the victory. His kicking game in the Roosters twenty was sublime.

Hohaia, despite having not played for five weeks looked sharp, and will have benefited greatly from this hit-out. He is one of the players crucial to the Warriors hopes this season.

Sam Rapira was the pick of the forwards. His go forward in the last fifteen minutes was indeed an important factor in the comeback that the warriors made. Ian Henderson made good ground up the middle of the ruck when he came on, but some of his decision making in the final few minutes of normal time, as well as in extra time left alot to be desired.

A result that should see the Warriors lift themselves back into the top eight and the confidence of a win going into a tough match next week against the Melbourne Storm, in Melbourne.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Round 6 NRL Picks

Panthers vs Brisbane- Brisbane by 6
Titans vs Raiders- Titans by 8
Dragons vs Knights- Dragons by 10
Rabbitohs vs Manly- Manly by 4
Warriors vs Roosters- Warriors by 4
Sharks vs Cowboys- Sharks by 1
Eels vs Bulldogs- Bulldogs by 6
Tigers vs Storm- Storm by 5

Saturday, April 11, 2009

St George beat Parramatta last night, and once again, Wayne Bennett only used fifteen men. Perhaps a deliberate plan to solidify the mental toughness of his team. By making them see that they can compete with other teams with fewer players, thus helping them to believe in themselves and build their confidence. See, mental toughness is all about believing in what you are trying to achieve. If you are are confident, then you will be able to handle the pressure. Alot is said about top sportspeople needing to be arrogant. No, they don't. Arrogance comes from a lack of self belief and lack of confidence. Confidence comes from believing in what you are trying to achieve, thus making you mentally tough, ergo, you will be more likely to achieve whatever it is you are aiming for.. Wayne Bennett is very cleverly instilling in his players that confidence needed to consistently compete with the best each week.
Another point to do with St George. Now, I have nothing against Nathan Brown, and i do not mean this as an attack on him. He is a most capable coach and was a good player as well. I only wish to use his case as an example to make a point. He was replaced by Wayne Bennett, which was the St Georges boards perogative. However, and this applies to alot of different fields in life, wouldn't it have been a great oppurtunity to for someone to learn from one of the great coaches of all time, as an assistant coach. I can understand someone like Brown not wishing to go back to an assistants position, both in terms of monetary benefits, as well as wanting to be in the top job. However, sometimes in life, is there not times when one can learn from the best and taking one step backwards can eventually mean taking two steps forward. It can apply to all of us at times. Just a thought.
Melbourne are tonight playing Penrith in Melbourne and i expect that Melbourne will win this encounter. This was once a feared trip for any team in the NRL, but Melbourne now seems to have lost the aura of invincibility that it once held over opponents in Melbourne. Could it be that the Warriors busrt the Storms bubble somewhat, when they beat the Storm there in the first round of the finals series at the end of last season?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Round 5 NRL Picks

Sea Eagles

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On a day set aside to celebrate the life of Sonny Fai, South Sydney came to Mt Smart Stadium and upstaged the New Zealand Warriors with a hard fought 22-16 win. The Warriors led for all bar the last twelve minute, when despite being out of interchanges and having done sixty more tackles than their opponents, Souths came home the stronger.

The first ten minutes was end to end stuff, with both teams having their chances. In the fifth minute Ben Lowe went close for Souths, but lost the ball due to Aidan Kirk getting a hand to the ball and ripping it free, only a metre out from the Warriors line.

The Warriors two starting props, Sam Rapira and Russel Packer were making good ground in the absence of the injured Steve Price.

The eight minute comes along and the Warriors are on attack when Stacey Jones chip kicks on the last tackle. A Souths player gets a touch but loses the ball and Jones regathers and heads for the right side and passes to Patrick Ah Van who off-loads to Aidan Kirk who dives over in the corner to open the scoring for the Warriors. Denam Kemp converts and the Warriors are leading 6-0.

During the twelfth minute the Warriors once again attack Souths goal line and force a goal line drop-out. From the ensuing play, Russel Packer make good ground and off-loads in the tackle to Wade McKinnon who passes to Henderson who hands over the ball to stand in skipper, Michael Luck to dive over next too the posts. Once again Kemp converts and the Warriors have a handy 12-0 lead.

Eighteen minutes have passed by and Souths are awarded a penalty and head into the enemies twenty. Chris Sandow puts fullback Luke capewell into a gap who scores to bring the score to 12-6 after Sandow also converts.

Shortly after Souths lose the ball in a one on one tackle by Ian Henderson, and then proceed to attack. They lose a golden opportunity to score again when McKinnon is put into a gap but cannot hold onto the ball only two metres out from the Souths goal line. This proves to be costly as Souths then race up the field going from side to side when John Sutton kicks through for winger Manikinowa, who is brought down without the ball, not allowing him a scoring chance. Video Referee Chris Ward decides quite rightly to award Souths a penalty try and scores are level at 12-12 after 25 minutes.

Both sides go close over the next thirteen minutes, but in the 38th minute after being awarded a penalty, Stacey Jones off-loads to McKinnon who crashes over for a four pointer. The warriors are leading 16-12 and this is how it stays until half-time.

The Warriors, despite having the better of the possession in the second half could not convert this into points. Kirk was taken over the sideline on tackle one in the 47th minute as he was diving for the try line.

And again in the 58th minute the Warriors had another chance after Nathan Fien make a break of another Packer off-load. Jones then put up a bomb which was tapped down by Kirk for Jacob Lillyman to grab and dive over to score. But, alas not. The video ref ruled the try out as Kirk had knocked the ball forward.

The warriors continued to put severe pressure on the South Sydney defence, but it held up extremely well.

The minute between the 66th and 68th happens along, with the Warriors once more on attack. Jones on the last tackle, puts a bomb up for Kirk, but instead Souths winger Talinoa comes down with the ball, and much to the dismay of the 19000 strong crowd, not to mention the Warriors players, decides to unmolested, make haste with tremendous anticipation of greener pastures and a better way of life at the other end of the field. He propels his body mass along the western touch line and upon arriving in the promised land, finds that the wingers natural habitat is not possessed with predators and goes around to score underneath the horizontal bar. Sandow converts and Souths take the lead for the first time in the match, 18-16.

In the 72nd minute Nathan Merritt scores a unconverted try to take the score to 22-16

The Warriors still have a sniff but to no avail as Souths hold them out for the final eight minutes.

In a hard fought and thoroughly entertaining game of football, the Warriors fallen comrade Sonny Fai would have been proud of the eighty minute effort displayed by his teammates. A understrength Warriors team would have lost this by a wider margin last season, but a combination of wanting to do something special for Fai and the fact that they are clearly a better football team this season kept them in the game.

Warriors coach, Ivan Clearly would be concerned at the number of chances his team had but were not able to convert into points, but despite this, there was still alot to be positive about.

Despite being without normal skipper Price, Rapira and in particular Russel Packer proved they are shaping up as top class props and will be very able replacements for Price when he eventually retires. Packer especially looks to be the real deal, and has a big future ahead of him, considering he is only twenty. He made metres consistently all match and looks set to become the Warriors top prop in coming years.

In the backs Wade McKinnon had his strongest game since returning from last years knee operation. With Tate out for the season and Vatevei likely to be out for another few weeks, the Warriors desperately need McKinnon at his best.

Patrick Ah Van was busy at centre, particuly in helping his forwards out on their own line and made the last pass to put Kirk over for his teams first try, but it remains to be seen if he is the answer as Brent Tates replacement for the season.

Lance Hohaia remains an option in this position as well.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Round Four NRL picks