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Containing offloads a danger sign for Warriors

Warriors Sam Tomkins and Nathan Friend during the team's Round 23 loss against Newcastle. Credit: Colin Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.

Historically the Warriors have used attacking offloads to terrorise opposing defensive lines into submission, but over the last couple of weeks an inability to contain them has restricted their own potential. 

Prior to Round 22 the New Zealanders were conceding an average of 10 offloads per game, a figure which sat them exactly on the NRL average at that time.

But over the last two rounds they have given up a combined 31, with one weak effort in particular last week resulting in a Sione Mata'utia try at a crucial stage in the 28-22 loss to the Knights.

"It puts pressure on everyone whenever there is an offload," said winger Manu Vatuvei.

"We have been doing really well with our defence and locking the ball up, but the last two weeks it has gone away from us and they have been getting away on us.

 "I think it comes from attention and technique. If the aggression and technique isn't there then I don't think you can stop that person.

"The technique – getting the arm around the ball and locking their arm up – then making sure that the heads are in real tight, those are little techniques that are really important.

"We [also] have to make sure if there is an offload that we are there to stop it and the second phase of their plays."

Coach Andrew McFadden had addressed the issue following the Round 22 victory over the Sharks where his side allowed their opponents to get the ball away 18 times, but was frustrated to see it still present last Sunday at Hunter Stadium. 

"There is some detail around why that is happening and we have obviously looked at that as a group and will sort it out," McFadden said.

"That is certainly one area that hasn't been a feature; letting offloads go. We have got to do some work on that this week.

"A bit of that is [poor line speed] and a bit of making sure we get numbers in the tackle, which we have just gone off a little bit."

But hooker Nathan Friend believed the problem had as much to do with their opponents as it did themselves.

"The opposition [the last two weeks] and their willingness to play a bit of footy, they don't have the expectations of playing semi-finals, so I dare say their style of play is probably a bit different to someone who has something on the line," the veteran hooker said.

It is the perfect opportunity to fix the issue this week at Mount Smart Stadium, against a Roosters side that averages a competition-low seven offloads per game.

Meanwhile McFadden confirmed that the controversial choice of starting Thomas Leuluai at hooker and bringing Friend off the bench would continue for the time being.

The move appeared to pay off for both players last week, with Leuluai racking up 24 tackles and laying on a line-break assist. Friend came off the bench to make six dummy-half runs for 53 metres – his highest numbers in those categories since Round 18 – and capped it off with a try early in the second half.

"We will start with Thomas. We saw the results of that last week with Nathan coming off the bench and really adding something to us, so we will continue with that at this stage," McFadden said.

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