Matt Elliott moves on Warriors defensive gaps

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
Jerome Ropati
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CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Jerome Ropati will partner Dane Nielsen in the centres in the Warriors line-up to face the St George-Illawarra Dragons at Eden Park on Saturday night.

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Warriors coach Matt Elliott has made a decisive move to shore up his side's brittle defence following Sunday's disastrous season-opening loss to the Eels.

After a night in which his side's right edge was left brutally exposed by an Eels team who romped home 36-16, Elliott has brought in experienced centre Jerome Ropati and up-and-coming utility Ben Henry for the first home game of the season, against the Dragons at Eden Park on Saturday.

Elliott said the loss against the Eels left both the coaching staff and players blindsided.

 ''Our performance against Parramatta wasn't what any of us saw coming,'' he said. 

''There was one team out there competing a lot harder physically than we did and that was the most disappointing aspect.''

Elliott said veteran Ropati, who had been ''pushing hard in the trials and at training to get himself ready for a return to the NRL'', would bring a much-needed hard edge to the right side of the park.

Ropati, 29, now in his 12th NRL season and edging towards his 150th NRL appearance, will be hoping for a little more luck in 2014.

In the last three seasons, he's been plagued by injuries, which have restricted him to just 15 first-grade matches in that time. 

Henry, who also spent much of the 2013 season sidelined with injury, made a successful return from knee surgery last week, being used at standoff and scoring a try for the Warriors' reserve grade side in their New South Wales Cup game against Wentworthville.

The Dragons loom as another difficult assignment for the Warriors and will come into Saturday's clash on the back of a 44-24 victory over the Tigers in round one.

The Warriors have only ever won four times against the Dragons in 20 matchups. The last time the Warriors won was in 2007 with the Dragons winning eight straight since then.

Elliott said the team was looking forward to returning to Eden Park following the successful Nines tournament held there last month.

''We've got three games coming up there and can't wait to play in front of our members and fans.''

WARRIORS

Starters: Sam Tomkins, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Jayson Bukuya, Simon Mannering (c), John Palavi.

Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi, Ben Henry, Feleti Mateo, Sione Lousi.

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