Warriors' defence 'key to turnaround' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Warriors' defence 'key to turnaround'

By Robert Lowe 25/09/2008 07:17:06 PM Comments (0)

Test second-rower Simon Mannering believes a vastly improved defence has been the key to the New Zealand Warriors' deep run into the NRL finals.

In late June, the Warriors' finals hopes were hanging by a thread.

They were the leakiest team in the competition after 14 rounds, conceding an average of almost 30 points a game.

Their defensive frailties were exposed most cruelly in a round-three 52-6 loss to Manly, their preliminary final opponents in Sydney this Saturday night.

In their past 12 outings, however, their points against average has plummeted to below 16.

Not surprisingly, they have accumulated 10 wins during that stretch and advanced to within one match of a grand final appearance.

Mannering, whose consistency saw him named the club's player of the season, can remember the difficult early weeks of the season.

"It wasn't too enjoyable," he said.

"We weren't playing the footy we're capable of, our defence was poor and all the guys were gutted at how the team was going."

Mannering said one reason the Warriors had managed to finish the 2007 minor premiership as high as fourth was because of their defence.

"But that all went out the window at the start of the year," he said.

"We just thought, if we fixed up our defence the other stuff would come, and that's got us to the point where we are now. We've gone back to basics and it seems to be paying off."

The 12-Test New Zealand international said attitude was the biggest part of the turnaround.

"If you don't want them to score, they're not going to score," he said.

"You can see from the way we're playing that the attitude is back there. There's a real pride in defending our tryline."

Defence of their tryline was very much in evidence in the playoff wins over Melbourne and the Sydney Roosters.

In the semi-final against the Roosters, the Warriors were called on to do plenty of tackling in the first half, but survived to be down by just 13-6 at halftime.

They blew the game open in the second spell by keeping their line intact, while scoring four further tries to round off a 30-13 result.

Mannering has been among the Warriors' defensive stalwarts this season, averaging 27.5 tackles a game, third in the club behind Micheal Luck with 39 and Ian Henderson 28.

Despite that workload, he has still managed to run close to 100m a game with the ball.

He is also one of just three players, along with Nathan Fien and Sam Rapira, to have played all 26 matches of the Warriors' campaign so far.

Against the Sea Eagles, he will be making his 69th successive first-grade appearance and his 77th in all.

Mannering, 22, said his goal at the start of the year, his fourth in the NRL, was to lift his game another notch.

"You get to the point where you've been around long enough that you want to go to the next level and take on more responsibility," he said.

"I guess I was thinking about that at the start of the year and it's started to pay off."

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