Warriors' Chad Townsend braced for big test
An Australian, playing for the Warriors, up against one of New Zealand's best - tomorrow's game against the Sea Eagles will be a test in a multitude of ways for five-eighth Chad Townsend.
Townsend will again line up next to Shaun Johnson as the Warriors face the Sea Eagles at Mt Smart Stadium, and face off against Kiwis stalwart Kieran Foran.
The clash promises to be a right doozy.
The Warriors have been one of the best attacking teams in the competition, the Sea Eagles one of the best defensive units.
The Sea Eagles come into the game having won four of their five last games and sitting six points clear of the Warriors, who sit in a logjam of teams on 22 points.
The Sea Eagles have an impressive record against the Warriors in recent years, winning seven of the last eight meetings.
Townsend, 23, who debuted with the Warriors this season, has developed into a key player for the side and promises to be again tomorrow afternoon.
His dominance appeared unlikely at the start of the season - he had languished in the Sharks reserve grade side and threatened to do the same with the Warriors but he, Johnson and Tomkins have formed a formidable spine.
Townsend has also provided the sensible direction that allows Johnson to shine.
"I'm a different player to Shaun and my role is to take a bit of pressure off him and just let him play that free flowing X-factor style of play."
Townsend said he would step up at the start of the set and make a call so Johnson could "get the ball and just run".
Townsend said tomorrow afternoon's game promised to be a "big test".
"He's a tough bugger, Kieran [Foran] ... he plays nice and straight and really direct. We are going to have to be really good at the ruck and make sure we are controlling that part of the ball to nullify his opportunities."
Townsend said the team was not distracted by the loss to the Broncos last weekend.
"Our heads aren't down. We know we didn't play to the best of our ability but we still scored 22 points and that's enough to win the game, our defence and our desperation in defence were just not good enough."
Team-mate Manu Vatuvei agrees.
"Our defence has got to be way better than what we did [against the Broncos] and coming under pressure, it's going to be tough.
"They are a team that puts a lot of pressure on teams. It's going to be a massive test for us and going to show where we are sitting at the moment."
Townsend could be a good long-term prospect for the Warriors - if he sticks around. He faces competition, though, from a fit Thomas Leuluai.
"I'm not going to try and delve into it too much as to what that is. I just need to worry about myself and the things I can control - how hard I work at training and how well I play in the weekend. I know if I am playing at the best of my ability, I will be in the side."
Townsend said he was signed until the end of 2015 with the Warriors and had not looked beyond that
"I'm not too sure. At the moment I'm really enjoying myself, and I have loved my time in Auckland."
AT A GLANCE
What: Warriors v Sea Eagles
Where: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
When: Sky Sport 2: 4pm tomorrow
Referees: Ben Cummins and Chris James
TAB odds: Sea Eagles $1.80 Warriors $1.95
Warriors (from): Sam Tomkins, Ngani Laumape, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Nathan Friend, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (c), Sebastine Ikahihifo. Interchange: Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Thomas Leuluai, Sam Rapira
Coach: Andrew McFadden
Sea Eagles (from): Brett Stewart, Jorge Taufua, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Peta Hiku, Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Starling, Matt Ballin, Brenton Lawrence, Anthony Watmough, Jamie Buhrer, Tom Symonds. Interchange: Jesse Sene-Lefao, Dunamis Lui, James Hasson, Jason King
Coach: Geoff Toovey
What did you make of the Warriors' ninth-place finish in 2014?