Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Since the beginning of Rugby League time one thing has always been a given in this great game, and that is the need to set a base. Go forward; set your opposition on the back foot and then let those fancy little nimble footed backs loose to do their thing.

Generally this is deemed to be the responsibility of the forwards.

And fair enough, too.

They’re big, bulky, weigh a tonne and have scant regard for those that deem it necessary to impose their presence on the path of said angry big men. For sure, they’re not fleet of foot but they do a valuable job all the same.

On Saturday at Mt Smart it was the backs of the New Zealand Warriors that fronted up.
It’s not that the forwards didn’t do their job against the Brisbane pack. Indeed, they did. But it was a brutal affair. Unlike the previous week’s match-up with Melbourne where the forwards were able to dominate their opposites for long periods, this time it was different. Brisbane may have a young pack, but they are big and strong and held their own with the home side.

This is where the backs came in. Show ponies this lot are not. One for all and all for one is their motto. Willing workers were to be found everywhere. Manu Vatuvei, Bill Tupou, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Henry and, in particular, Jerome Ropati bled for the cause.

When the pressure went on from the visitors in the third quarter, and the forwards were finding the going tough their mates out the back willingly stepped in to give a helping hand. A mini-crisis was averted due to the fine work ethic and unselfish attitude of the entire backline staff.

They dug deep, it worked a treat.

What with that, and a superb defensive effort, it amounted to a well earned victory against one of the form teams of the competition.

Speaking of defence, what a transformation the Aucklander’s have undergone during the last few weeks. Against Brisbane their sliding defence was at its optimum efficiency. They slid well, no one came out of the line and the inside defenders continued to slide once the ball had passed them, hence being able to cover any ball runner cutting back on the angle.

The 2011 vintage had a superb record on defence. Despite this it always looked somewhat frantic. Yes, it generally held, but they often seemed to be making harder work of it than it should have been. This is not to denigrate the efforts of a fine side. After all, they did get to a grand final.

What is interesting though was the ease with which the Warriors defended against Brisbane. There appeared to be a composure to their work when under attack that was not there in past seasons, even 2011.

So, more of the same please.

And with only one change – Alehana Mara in for an injured Nathan Friend - to the side to meet the Sydney Roosters this coming Saturday night, it is an ideal opportunity to continue building on what one senses is about to become a formidable unit.

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