Warriors coach Brian McClennan has defended under-fire winger Manu Vatuvei following his side's 22-12 loss to the Storm yesterday, saying the Kiwis representative has been guilty "trying too hard" recently.
Despite scoring a brilliant first half try off a stunning floating pass from halfback Shaun Johnson, Vatuvei struggled throughout; committing two key handling errors, one of which led to the Storm's final try to hooker Cameron Smith.
The giant winger, who now has 95 first-grade tries for the Warriors, coped criticism in the media after a below-par performance against the Tigers a fortnight ago. Vatuvei leads the NRL with 26 errors.
McClennan said Vatuvei was trying hard to "ignite" the Warriors in the second half, which led to him to over-playing.
"He's very distraught at the moment, because he tries so hard for our team," the Warriors coach said.
"That's why everybody is so protective of him. Myself included, big time. It's just that he was trying to ignite something to ignite the team, he's was trying a little too hard, and over-played it."
"That's a mistake, but if I could just say this; someone that's trying too hard and overplays and makes mistakes.
"I prefer those mistakes than the other ones when blokes aren't having a proper dig. He's trying his heart out, out there."
Meanwhile the victory over the Warriors sees the Storm stay at the top of the NRL table, with only one loss this season.
Storm skipper Smith said that loss, against the Sharks in round ten, has galvanised the Victorian side.
"That loss to Cronulla really pointed out some things we needed to work on," he said. "The last few weeks we've taken good steps forward. We had a good win against the Broncos and to get a good win against the Warriros was very pleasing."
The Storm will play host to the Tigers next week, who now have six straight victories with Saturday's 40-0 demolition of the Raiders in Canberra.
The Warriors meanwhile face former coach Ivan Cleary's Panthers in Sydney next Monday.
- © Fairfax NZ News