Warriors responding well ahead of Dragons clash in Hamilton, says coach Kearney

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney says the response from his team has been wonderful.
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Warriors coach Stephen Kearney says the response from his team has been wonderful.

The good news for the Warriors is that it's hard for them to do much worse than last week.

But they shouldn't get too excited just yet, given who lies in store on Friday night, when they bring a home game to Hamilton for the first time.

Just six days on from their horror loss to the Penrith Panthers, they will host the St George Illawarra Dragons, a team they have only beat five times in 25 attempts, and who they lost to in Sydney eight weeks ago.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says the Warriors need to go back to basics.
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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says the Warriors need to go back to basics.

The Warriors didn't have Kieran Foran in that match - he was a late withdrawal when set to make this debut for the club - and this time around it's the Dragons who will be without their chief playmaker, Englishman Gareth Widdop, who injured his knee on Anzac Day.

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The Warriors have taken a long, hard look at themselves this week, after giving up a 28-6 halftime lead to lose to the Panthers last weekend, and coach Stephen Kearney said he liked the response he had seen so far from his men.

The Dragons will be without their English playmaker, Gareth Widdop.
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The Dragons will be without their English playmaker, Gareth Widdop.

"They've been wonderful. It was a tough watch for us earlier in the week, but in this competition, you always get an opportunity to right some wrongs, and it's come around pretty quickly, and we'll get that chance [on Friday]."

It was a sentiment echoed by captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who said it was case of going back to basics.

"I just want the boys to keep the game simple, and when an error happens, we've just got to let it go and get the game back on track."

Bunty Afoa has been named to start for the Warriors on Friday.
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Bunty Afoa has been named to start for the Warriors on Friday.

Heading into this round, the Dragons were fifth on the NRL ladder, and had lost their past three games, albeit to the top three sides - the Melbourne Storm, the Cronulla Sharks, and the Sydney Roosters.

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That run of losses has coincided with the injury to Widdop, who has been joined by fullback Josh Dugan on the sidelines.

The 12th-placed Warriors have their own absentee list, which includes winger Manu Vatuvei (calf), stalwart forward Simon Mannering (hamstring), and centre Solomone Kata, who was the latest to join, picking up a calf injury in the latter stages of last weekend's loss.

Ken Maumalo has been named to start on the wing for the Warriors.
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Ken Maumalo has been named to start on the wing for the Warriors.

In their team named on Tuesday, the Warriors avoided any drastic changes, but moved David Fusitu'a into the centres to replace Kata, brought Ken Maumalo in to replace Fusitu'a on the edge, and Bunty Afoa in to start in place of Sam Lisone.

Prop Ben Matulino will play his 200th game for the club, while second rower Bodene Thompson will play his 50th. 

Matulino is the fourth player to reach that milestone for the Warriors, after Stacey Jones, Mannering, and Vatuvei, and Kearney said on Thursday that he still has plenty to offer the club, even if he is bound for Wests Tigers come the end of the season.

Ben Matulino will play his 200th game for the Warriors on Friday.
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Ben Matulino will play his 200th game for the Warriors on Friday.

"When you're playing in the forwards these days, knocking off 200 games is a pretty significant achievement, and it's only going to get tougher in this competition. It's a real credit to him. Ben's one of the premier front rowers in the competition when he's fit and well, so I'm really pleased for him."

Friday's game is at FMG Stadium Waikato and kicks off at 8pm.

It is the fourth NRL match to be played at the venue, with the Warriors losing the others, which were away games, twice to the Parramatta Eels, and once to the Canterbury Bulldogs.

 - Stuff

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