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Warriors' secret plan to gaff Sharks

Warriors' secret plan to gaff Sharks
Warriors hooker Nathan Friend says the style of football that proved so fruitful against the Storm may not be the Kiwi-based team's plan of attack against the Sharks on Saturday. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos

Some people think the Warriors are a haphazard bunch of players, who throw the ball around in hope more than anything, and if the passes stick, they win, and if they go to ground, they lose. But it is much more scientific than that.

There is no doubt the Warriors rely heavily on their tremendous ability to create attacking opportunities by successfully offloading the ball under pressure, but they are by no means a one-dimensional team.

They played a certain way to beat Melbourne 30-22 at Mt Smart Stadium last Sunday, in what was arguably the most entertaining game of the season, but they will go a different way again when they meet Cronulla at Mt Smart Stadium (again) on Saturday.

Warriors hooker Nathan Friend provided an insight into the mentality of the team under coach Matthew Elliott as they try to continue a fabulous run over the second half of the season that has taken them to the edge of the top eight.

"Against the Storm we had a plan to be expansive with the ball," Friend said. "You know how good Melbourne are with their defence, the up-and-in. We thought our advantage was on the edge, and we got there a few times and they cut us off a few times.

"There were a couple of times where we took advantage of getting there and scored a couple of quality tries. We do have people in our team who are pretty good with the offloads, but as long as they're controlled, then it works for us to play off the back of it.

"If we were 30 points down and trying to score you would understand if we were throwing it around all over the place, but what we do is mostly controlled and we've got some quality players out wide who can make good use of the ball, so we want to get it in their hands.

"We get information on our different opponents and we need to attack them accordingly. Not every week is the same, and this week will probably be a bit different. I don't want to give too much away, but we'll probably be looking to attack the Sharks a little bit differently again.

"We'll go off their past three or four games and try to combat them based on what we learn from that."

Friend explained that, against the Storm, the Warriors were simply trying to get right what they didn't quite get right when they played them in Round 7 at AAMI Park. The Storm won 28-18, but the Warriors led in the second half and only succumbed late.

"We were in that game in Melbourne for 70-odd minutes, so we knew we were thereabouts with what we were doing," Friend said. "We knew that if we could just improve slightly we would be in with a good chance.

"We probably didn't execute that well against them the first time, but the ball found the hand last weekend and we were very fortunate to score 30 points on a quality opposition.

"Our matches have often gone down to the wire against them and I guess it was no different on the weekend. They came back at us, and our defence obviously needs to be rectified against the Sharks this weekend.

"Melbourne are coached by a great coach and they exploited a few weaknesses that we had, and we were probably fortunate they alerted us to that and let us know of the areas in which we require attention going into the back end of the season.

"We've worked on a few things defensively this week and we've put a few things in place to try to stop the tries from coming. Hopefully, it works and we can get another victory at home against the Sharks."

The Warriors are in ninth place, on 22 points. They won just two and lost eight of their first 10 games, but since their season hit rock bottom with a 62-6 loss on the road against Penrith they have won seven and lost just one of eight games.

That sole blemish was against competition leaders South Sydney in Perth three rounds back, when the Warriors led at halftime but were shut out in the second stanza and went down 30-13.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, that 56-point defeat against the Panthers has had the lingering effect of having contributed heavily to what is a poor points for-and-against differential for them.

They are at minus 63 points, the worst of the eight teams that are left fighting for the bottom four spots in the finals. In a tight race, that is as good as being another win behind on the table, but if the Warriors can keep winning it will obviously have the add-on effect of improving their differential.

"At the start of the season we lost a lot of close matches and we probably should have done better," Friend said. "Whether it was a lack of confidence or not, I don't know, but we couldn't close things out.

"Now, with a few victories under our belt and consistency week in and week out, the boys have got the feeling that we're on the right track, and when we get into a tight tussle we do what we know works for us."

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