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Warriors props lead from the front

Warriors prop Sam Rapira says the team's forward pack has lifted its game in the past fortnight. Copyright: NRL Photos/Shane Wenzlick. Credit: NRL Photos/Shane Wenzlick. Copyright: NRL Photos/Shane Wenzlick.

Everyone loves to talk up the Warriors’ forward pack. 

Since joining the NRL 19 years ago, the club have been renowned  for an abundance of intimidating big men hard to contain.

And so when they were steamrolled in consecutive weeks to start the season, alarm bells started ringing. 

Subsequently, a crisis meeting of the team’s big boppers was called - and the effects have been on display ever since.

 “The first couple of weeks the other teams pretty much dominated us,” experienced front-rower Sam Rapira bluntly told NRL.com.

“Every team knows the way to go well starts in the forwards and we hadn’t really been doing our jobs.

“The boys weren’t too happy about that, so we came together and said we had to do better. The coach and everyone else can only do so much – the rest is up to the individual.

“The last couple of weeks we have improved, but again we need to step up another level.”

Last week the Warriors' props ran for a combined total of over 380 metres, with the biggest contribution coming from benchmen Suaia Matagi (104m) and Jacob Lillyman (118m).

A week earlier against the Cowboys in humid Townsville the dynamic duo stood out as well, wrestling and eventually overcoming a team containing two Australian representative front-rowers in Matt Scott and James Tamou.

“The way Jacob [Lillyman], Suaia [Matagi] and Ben [Matulino] have been playing has been massive for the team,” Rapira said, shying away from praise of his own efforts.

Lillyman in particular has been a pillar of strength in the early stages of 2014, with 51 hit-ups and 575 total running metres from his first four matches.

The 30-year-old former Queensland representative has been big on the NRL Fantasy scene too, with a 37-point average and a price of $248,960, which is sure to increase in coming weeks.

This Saturday’s game against the Sharks at Remondis Stadium presents another physical challenge up front for the Warriors.

In their way of a third straight victory stands Andrew Fifita, who last week contributed 118 run metres and as four offloads, as well as experienced campaigners Bryce Gibbs and Sam Tagataese.

But the man who combined with Kiwi legend Ruben Wiki to form the best Warriors' front row of all time, Steve Price, believes the club’s bookends are more than up to the task.

“When the Warriors play well it is when the big boys are really direct,” Price said.

“When we try and go lateral before going forward we don’t play so well as a team. We have got some outstanding go-forward players, so why wouldn’t you play to your strengths?”

The former Maroons and Kangaroos enforcer also suggested the slow start to the season was a consequence of adjusting to the new rule interpretations, as well as a lack of quality game experience in the pre-season.

“In the trials that we played a lot of our bigger names hadn’t played too much. The ones that did play against the Broncos had a pretty easy win, so they hadn’t really been tested until that [Round 1] game against Parramatta,” Price said.

“On the weekend all the boys went well and as the game went on we got better. Hopefully that will give us some confidence going into this week and we can continue to build."

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