Kiwi flavour adds spice to Roosters v Warriors
Sydney Roosters and Kiwi Test prop Sam Moa says he and his fellow New Zealand clubmates can't wait to face the in-form New Zealand Warriors at Allianz Stadium on Sunday in a clash friends, family and fans have bookmarked as extra special.
Adding further interest to the meeting – both sides are in great form and set next to each other at the top of the ladder in third and fourth place as both sides press for a top-four finish.
The Roosters pulled one out of the fire against the Warriors just five weeks ago in Auckland minus their Origin stars when a late Blake Ferguson try stole a game in which they had been badly dominated in the first half.
Each side also boasts an in-form twinkle-toed try scoring ace in the form of Roosters fullback, the Warriors-bound Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and New Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson, whose recent try-scoring feats have defied belief.
Moa said Johnson's form had caught fire in part due to the impressive work of his forward pack in laying him a platform, especially prop Ben Matulino and skipper Simon Mannering.
"The Warriors pose a different sort of threat; they're building nicely, they've got a bit of momentum," Moa said.
"Watching them the last few weeks, they're building nicely and key players are playing extremely well."
The biggest threat?
"The obvious – the No.7 [Johnson] – he's hard to tackle at the best of times," Moa laughed.
"He's one of those players it seems like it's impossible to get a hand on him. When he's in those sort of moods there's no better sight really. He can be in one position then blink an eye and he's the opposite way.
"He's a freak, he's a very rare talent."
With Johnson roaming all across the park and making great defenders look second rate in recent weeks, Moa knows he'll need to be on his toes come kick-off.
"Watching their No.7, how he's been playing the last couple of weeks, I don't think I'll get to get my hands on him but if I do I'm going to try and keep him down as long as I can," Moa said.
Moa added Johnson is clearly riding a wave of confidence and enjoying the platform his forwards are laying.
"You can tell his confidence has been up lately the way they've been performing and on the back of a pretty solid forward pack. I think that's when he plays his best footy when the forward pack get him on the front foot and he can get the ball early and when defences give him too much time to move that's when he creates havoc.
"Ben Matulino's been extremely good for them. Simon Mannering's had his best year of late and doesn't get the credit of a lot of the other players but he's such a steady influence for the Warriors and for the Kiwi camp. It's good to see him playing some very good football. He's always been a top class performer but Benny Matulino's taken his game to another level."
Moa said to see so many New Zealand players in top form is great for New Zealand rugby league "it's a bit of a headache for us coming up against them this week", adding there is always more willingness when the Roosters' huge Kiwi contingent (himself, Jard-Waerea-Hargreaves, Roger Tuiasa-Sheck, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Isaac Liu and Sio Siua Taukeiaho) comes up against the Warriors.
"There's a lot more Kiwis in the fans, all of us Kiwi boys in the Roosters have had some sort of interaction with the Kiwi boys in the Warriors team, whether it be through the junior grades or in the Kiwi Test squad or just everywhere you come into contact with a lot of the Kiwi boys in the competition," he said.
"It certainly adds a little bit more spice to it and it's certainly a game our family and friends can take more of a liking to because of the connection there being Kiwis. It's a game that we always look forward to playing."
Taukeiaho was at the Warriors just last year before challenging himself with a move across the ditch to join the 2013 premiers and after an outstanding game in his first ever NRL match against his old club five weeks ago is looking forward to another chance to face his mates.
He said things hadn't been working out well when he was at the Warriors, getting too comfortable and heading down the wrong path, but was now loving his time at the Roosters.
"Everyone [I know] is still there, a few players are over here now... some of them are playing first grade here but the majority, I know the whole Warriors team. Every time we play them I'm always looking forward to it," he said.
"They're looking pretty good, just below us so we can't take them too lightly, they were in the bottom eight and now they're playing good footy and they're in the top four so we need to prepare ourselves and get ready for Sunday."