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The Warriors have started their season with a bang, demolishing a hapless Bulldogs side 40 points to 6 at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.
Blake Green shone early, coming up with chip kicks to set up the first two tries to Ken Maumalo and Solomone Kata respectively.
His general-play kicking was also top-notch, giving the Bulldogs back three very little to work with.
Green’s young accomplice, debutant Adam Keighran was the star later on, kicking six goals from seven attempts, including several from the sideline, and coming up with a great solo effort to score a try on debut – becoming the first Warrior to do so since Pita Godinet in 2011.
The game started off with a fairly even arm-wrestle. Even though the Warriors managed an early try from a kick in the 14th minute, it was still anyone’s game at that point as the territory was fairly even.
The real momentum shift came when the Warriors made use of their bench, bringing on new signing Leeson Ah Mau, Sam Lisone and Jazz Tevaga all within a few minutes of each other.
These three players brought plenty of energy and power that the Bulldogs’ forwards simply couldn’t match, and the Warriors began to dominate both the arm wrestle, and the scoreboard.
Behind an ascendant forward pack, the Warriors’ backs began to run riot. The likes of Fusitu’a, Hiku, Maumalo and Kata found plenty of space out wide, converting the opportunities into points on many occasions.
The second half was more of the same for both sides. The Bulldogs were fighting a lost battle in the middle, which really impacted their edge defence.
They managed to score a consolation try in the 55th minute, but you could tell by their body language that they’d already given up. The last two tries to Hiku and Kata were both very soft.
For the Warriors, they will be ecstatic with the win on Old Boys’ Day. While they had a good year in 2018, playing finals football for the first time since 2011, their home record was quite poor (just five wins from 12 starts).
They need to turn their home ground into a fortress if they are to improve on last year’s campaign. This win was a significant step in the right direction for achieving that.
For the Bulldogs, well… one wonders how a week of training will help them when they dish up an effort like that after 5 months of hard work in the pre-season. Nonetheless, it’s back to the drawing board for Dean Pay’s men.
They have plenty to work on execution-wise – but no amount of training is going to fix the attitude problems that were displayed in this game.
It also couldn’t hurt them to actually figure out a way to get young star Remis Smith into the game. He burned Matt Dufty last year – that’s some serious speed.
New Zealand Warriors 40
Canterbury Bulldogs 6
The New Zealand Warriors will begin their 2019 campaign at home up against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 3pm AEDT.
With both sides fielding new halves pairings and welcoming many other new players, this shapes up as a very interesting clash indeed.
This game will be our first look at Adam Keighran in the top grade. A former Australian Schoolboy and reserve-grader for the Bulldogs and the Penrith Panthers, Keighran has showed plenty of promise in the lower grades, and with the experienced Blake Green as his partner, he has every chance of cementing his spot if the Warriors are successful early in the season.
However, with Kiwi up-and-comer Chanel Tavita-Harris (look up his “scorpion kick on YouTube – this kid is a freak!) waiting in the wings, Keighran will have to perform early if he wants to remain in the top grade.
The Warriors’ biggest strength is their back three. Wingers David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo (189cm and 191cm respectively) are both threats under the high ball, and set a great platform for their side early in the tackle count.
Then of course there’s captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, whose kick-return meters are among the best of any fullback in the game. If these three combine to set the platform for the Warriors, they will be very hard for any side to stop.
For the Bulldogs, this will be our first look at Kieran Foran and Lachlan Lewis as a halves pairing.
We all know what Foran is capable of on his day – although he has not produced his best in a number of years.
Lewis too was very impressive for the Bulldogs during the back half of last year – one of their shining lights in an otherwise dour season. He will be hoping he doesn’t catch a case of the dreaded “second-year syndrome” – an all too common affliction in rugby league.
With two halves combinations still finding their feet in first grade, this game will likely be won in the forwards.
Although they have added Queensland Origin big bopper Dylan Napa to their pack, the Warriors’ pack still has a size advantage over the Bulldogs.
That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs can’t challenge the Warriors. They just have to be smart about it.
They’re never going to get over the top of this Warriors pack. But if they tire them out and make them work hard with clever angle running and plenty of offloads they’re certainly in with a chance.
However, it’s very difficult to go past a home team in Round 1. The Warriors will get the Bulldogs in this one, and it will be quite a convincing victory.
Warriors by 20
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 3pm AEDT.
Where: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
When: 3pm AEDT
TV: Fox Sports
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2 David Fusitu’a 3 Peta Hiku 4 Solomone Kata 5 Ken Maumalo 6 Adam Keighran 7 Blake Green 8 Agnatius Paasi 9 Nathaniel Roache 10 Bunty Afoa 11 Adam Blair 12 Tohu Harris 13 Lachlan Burr. Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga 15 Sam Lisone 16 Leeson Ah Mau 17 Blake Ayshford. Reserves: 18 Gerard Beale 20 Ligi Sao 21 Karl Lawton 22 Chanel Harris-Tavita
1 Will Hopoate 2 Christian Crichton 3 Kerrod Holland 4 Marcelo Montoya 5 Reimis Smith 6 Kieran Foran 7 Lachlan Lewis 8 Aiden Tolman 9 Michael Lichaa 10 Dylan Napa 11 Josh Jackson (c) 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13 Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14 Jeremy Marshall-King 15 Danny Fualalo 16 Corey Harawira-Naera 17 Sauaso Sue Reserves: 19 Jack Cogger 20 Nick Meaney 21 Chris Smith 22 Ofahiki Ogden