NZ Warriors vs Roosters
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 12th May, 7:30pm
Well, last week certainly exceeded my expectations. Broken jaws and a new signing aside, that first half against the Broncos was far and away the best half of football we’ve played all year. It began up front with a rampaging Big Ben absolutely smashing Hannant and his mate Thaiday, and was finished by a few deft touches from Johnson. I could go on all day, so to save time, let’s turn our attention towards this week against the Roosters.
Payback may be what the media talk up for this match, though from my perspective the Warriors need to solidify what they’ve achieved over the past few weeks. A good win against the Bunnies, a competitive loss at Melbourne followed by our best win of the season over the high flying Broncos - a win this weekend will stamp our intent as a serious Premiership force.
Recent form: Not unlike the Warriors, the Roosters have had an indifferent start to the season. They’ve struggled to string wins together and come into this clash sitting just outside the 8. They’ll be buoyed by their solid win over a depleted Knights outfit on Sunday, though confidence isn’t at an all-time high in Sydney city. Concerning for Roosters fans will be their form on the road, going down 50-12 against the Cowboys in Darwin and 44-4 in Melbourne.
The Warriors, on the other hand, look to be playing the sort of football we all expect; Joey Johns even thinks we’re the most dangerous team in the competition. (Read into that what you will.) I thought our defence on the fringes looked better against the Broncos, Henry again impressive in shutting down his opposite number.
Rooster forum stalking reveals they’re not too confident about this trip, though the general consensus seems to be that if there’s any weakness to be exploited, it lies in the outside backs of this Warriors line-up – Vatuvei and Hurrell in particular.
Players to watch: We highlighted last week the importance of matching the Broncos forwards as the key to success. The Roosters gave the Warriors pack a touch up in Sydney earlier this year, and I expect our forwards to come out firing. Matulino was my man of the match last weekend, and I thought Lillyman was outstanding on his return. Look to our pack to continue their dominance.
From a fan perspective, however, I’m looking forward to seeing Alehana Mara get another chance in first grade. I enjoyed watching him in the Vulcans, and I think many of us would agree he hasn’t fulfilled his potential. The next 6 weeks are a chance to show us if he has a future in first grade, or whether he’ll been Vulcanised for good.
Johnson has been steady this season, and I thought he controlled the game well last week. I think he’s been building on his game nicely. If our forwards get on top, look for some SJ brilliance that we all secretly (or not so secretly) crave.
Despite Ricky Stuart’s claims that his NSW Origin side is all but finalised, there will still be a couple of Roosters players looking to impress. Mitchell Pearce appears to be the incumbent halfback, though Anthony ‘the Count’ Minichiello will be pushing for the fullback berth after re-signing for another season.
My prediction: The Warriors at home and coming off a few strong performances should be too strong for the Roosters here. A cold Saturday night in Auckland in front of another hostile crowd, I get the impression this is a trip the Bondi boys would rather not make. I expect us to come out firing, to get the 2 points and to consolidate our recent momentum. Anything less and we’re back to being pretenders. Warriors by plenty: 32 – 14.