Warriors confident but wary of Manly firepower in must-win Christchurch NRL clash
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/111667606/-

2019-03-29 20:44:40

Stephen Kearney is backing his Warriors pack against a Manly unit bolstered by the return of former Kiws prop Addin Fonua-Blake.

The Warriors head coach dismissed an inference at Friday's pre-match press conference that Wests Tigers had implied the New Zealand NRL side did not have much to offer beyond an electric "back five" spearheaded by captain Roger Tuisava-Sheck and try-scoring threats David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo.

Asked if he was confident his pack could offer more against the Sea Eagles at Christchurch Stadium on Saturday night, Kearney insisted: "I think we've got a pretty capable forward group too".

He cited second rower Tohu Harris, interchange forward Leeson Ah Mau and starting prop Agnatius Paasi as important figures and seemed hopeful the Warriors can put last week's 34-6 drubbing by Wests Tigers behind them.

"We are confident in our game, but we know we all have to play a part . In any good performance, everyone has to play a part.

"We are very comfortable that we've got a game that can compete against any team in the competition."

The winless Sea Eagles missed Fonua-Blake last week in a 26-18 home loss to the Roosters at Brookvale Oval, but he was soon cleared to cross the Tasman for the Christchurch clash.

The 23-year-old, who switched his test allegiance to Tonga in 2018, was among the NRL's leading frontrowers last season for tackle breaks, metres beyond contact, and offloads.

Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has predicted Fonua-Blake could be in for a breakout season in 2019 ,and Kearney is conscious of the threat the 1.89m 118kg Manly enforcer brings.

"He's a quality player and he'll give them a fair bit of momentum. He's got a big body and he can play big minutes. For us, we know what he brings to the table, we've got to make sure we minimise the damage he causes and put him under a bit of pressure in defence."

Kearney said there would be no trouble motivating his men on Saturday with the squad desperate to atone for the Tigers trouncing.

"To be honest, after last weekend's performance, it's pretty easy, in the sense that we were disappointed with our game last week, we went away from what we know works for us.

"The focus this week has been about getting back to what we know works for us, and having a real focus on making sure that we execute that."

With prop Sam Lisone suspended, Kearney has reverted to "the same 17 that played in round one", noting they "did a fairly good job that day" in a 40-6 thrashing of the Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium.

"I just don't see the point of making changes," he said. "We are all aware of what it was about [against the Tigers], it wasn't about anything technical, it was about attitude.

"I think we probably all fell into the trap after round one about feeling a little too good about ourselves and we paid a pretty hefty price for it last Sunday."

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck agreed the Warriors had been guilty of "taking the foot off the pedal and not preparing to go over there and play the whole 80 minutes".

"We can't take anything away from the way the Tigers performed, but most of the tries and the errors and all that  was from our undoing . . . we did it to ourselves.

"This week is all about changing that attitude and coming in with a better mindset."

The Warriors performed a stirring haka on a visit to the Masjid Al Noor mosque on Friday afternoon in a poignant tribute to the 50 victims of the March 15 Christchurch shootings.

Kearney said it was important for his team to "make sure we go out and put on a performance people can be proud of, to give them something else to think about".

"It's been a challenging couple of weeks for everyone in New Zealand, particularly here in Christchurch and the Muslim community."

AT A GLANCE

WARRIORS v MANLY

Kickoff: 5PM SATURDAY AT CHRISTCHURCH STADIUM

TEAMS

Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Fusitu'a, Peta Hiku, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo, Adam Keighran, Blake Green, Agnatius Paasi, Issac Luke, Bunty Afoa, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Lachlan Burr. Interchange (from): Jazz Tevaga, Leeson Ah Mau, Isaiah Papali'i, Gerard Beale, Ligi Sao, Chanel Harris-Tavita.

Manly: Tom Trbojevic, Jorge Taufua, Moses Suli, Brad Parker, Reuben Garrick, Kane Elgey, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Addin Fonua-Blake, Apisai Koroisau, Martin Taupau, Joel Thompson, Curtis Sironen, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange (from): Manase Fainu, Jack Gosiewski, Corey Waddell,  Toafofoa Sipley, Brendan Elliot, Kelepi Tanginoa.

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