Warriors still struggling to close out games

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013
Ben Henry
Photosport
STANDOUT PLAYER: Ben Henry put in a strong performance at centre for the Warriors against the Titans.

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The Warriors may be continuing to fall to pieces at the tailend of games this season, but centre Ben Henry says the fact that they were able to hold on against the Titans last weekend should give them confidence for Saturday's game against the Bulldogs in Wellington.

Henry will partner Konrad Hurrell in the midfield, replacing Jerome Ropati, who has a hamstring injury, while Glen Fisiiahi comes in for fullback Kevin Locke, who is out for the next couple of weeks with a bad back.

Tickets are selling well for the game, but it could have been a different matter if the Warriors had blown their 24-6 lead on Sunday.

A Shaun Johnson field goal in the last couple of minutes gave the team a 25-24 win, but the Warriors continue to undo all their good work in the last 15 minutes of games.

After a sluggish start to the campaign, the Bulldogs are on the rise, unlike the Titans, who are heading in the opposite direction.

It is unlikely that the Warriors will be able to get a big enough points cushion before the game enters its closing stages on Saturday.

"For the first 70 minutes against the Titans we stuck to our structures and did everything we wanted to do," Henry said.

"In that first half, where we were getting possession and territory and good things were happening, we were scoring tries.

"In the second half, we dropped off, let them score and back into the game. We have to address that, especially because we're up against the Bulldogs this week.

"We've spoken about it and we're letting sides back into games when we've got big leads. We have to do something about that.

"When we were under the posts when they scored their second try we were talking about it, but it's one thing to talk about it and it's another to actually do it."

It is a problem Warriors coach Matt Elliott did not want to talk about after Sunday's game, but he is desperate to sort it out and he has put a big emphasis on the players finishing their training sessions well, not getting casual over the last 10 minutes.

"Hopefully that will translate into our games, but there is a difference between training and games and it's something we need to get some conclusions on," he said.

Despite this problem, the narrow win over the Titans has moved the Warriors off the bottom of the table, and the players should realise that if they stick to Elliott's game plan for 80 minutes they can be a top-eight side.

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"A win is a win and the boys were happy about it," Henry said.

"It had been a while since our previous win, so hopefully we can head into the Bulldogs game with our heads held high."

The Warriors' season has mirrored that of the Bulldogs. Both started their campaigns playing terribly, but have improved as they have had key players return.

What has also been a factor in the Warriors' resurgence is players coming back and playing well.

Henry missed the first couple of games of the season with an ankle injury, but over the past two weeks has been their best player, even if he had to play at centre, rather than his favoured position in the second row, against the Titans.

"I have to admit that I wasn't too pleased about it at the start, but this is a team sport and we're down on centres," he said.

"A lot of our outside backs are injured, so I took it on as a challenge. I'd played there before last year and I have to see it as an opportunity to be on the field and to play every week.

"I said to Matty that I'd do it and I'm happy."

Warriors: Glen Fisiiahi, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Elijah Taylor, Pita Godinet, Carlos Tuimavave. 

- Fairfax Media

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