Warriors admit confidence is down after defeat

Radio Sport, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Monday, 1 April 2019, 7:46PM
The Warriors were defeated by the Sea Eagles this weekend. (Photo / Getty)

The Warriors insist their defensive issues can be fixed – but admit their confidence has taken a hammering over the last two games.

The Auckland team has had a nightmare fortnight, with back to back performances that conjured up memories of the bad old days.

Gone was the resilience and hunger on defence they displayed last year, when only four teams conceded fewer tries across the NRL season.

In the space of 46 minutes at Campbelltown in round two the Tigers crossed for six tries, as the Warriors had no answers. On Sunday in Christchurch their defence was even more porous, as Manly scored eight tries, and could have had four or five more.

It was a tough watch. Not only did the Warriors seem powerless at times to stop the Sea Eagles rolling up field – they often made 70 or 80 metres in a set – but they couldn't defend their line, and several Manly tries came from short range.

The Warriors were on their heels, and grabbed and clawed at tackles, instead of driving with intent.

"Defence is plain and simple," said prop Bunty Afoa. "It's about attitude and connection. In the middle we have to stay tight on the rucks. We were worrying about the shifts too much and us middles have got to stay real tight.

"We were just too loose and our first up contact wasn't strong enough too. And when they get offloads, we have to try and shut it down, but we also have to stay calm."

Tohu Harris' struggles on Saturday epitomized the Warriors' current issues. He's recognized as one of the best defenders in the sport, but the Kiwis back rower missed six tackles as the left edge was repeatedly fractured.

"It is little things that we need to improve that led to those moments," Harris told Sky Television. "Little things early on in our sets, things to do with our contact. If we clean those up then the back end of our sets we will be a lot tidier and we can stop those points coming in. [But] two weeks in a row we have let it pile in and that's not good enough in this competition."

What about the absence of Simon Mannering? The long time captain was the king of the 'one per centers'; so strong in the ruck, on the kick chase and cutting off a potential break, but Afoa believes the team can thrive without their former captain.

"I have full confidence in all the boys," said Afoa. "We have a lot of boys that work hard on the field and we take pride in our defence. But on Sunday we didn't really show it. Hopefully we can bounce back well."

The Warriors have dived badly over the last two weeks, but Afoa insists the team remain buoyant.

"A lot of people have asked that question about our confidence," said Afoa. "Yeah, we are a bit down at the moment. We trained really well throughout [last] week and we wanted to come out firing after a disappointing performance against the Tigers.

"But we are trying to stay tight. We can't let one another down [and] in these moments it shows what kind of character we have as a team. We have to stay real tight."

Factbox: Eight days of pain for Warriors
Points conceded: 80
Tries conceded: 14
Missed tackles: 78
Line breaks conceded: 10
Errors: 23
Penalties conceded: 15
Ineffective tackles: 37