Titans unite to stop Shaun Johnson
Titans players have vowed not to be fall into the trap of rushing out on Shaun Johnson as the resurgent Warriors look to win their way back into the top eight at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Halfback Ashley Taylor was a notable absentee from Wednesday afternoon's training session and while the club stated that he is expected to take his place on the plane to Auckland on Thursday Cameron Cullen will also travel as part of the squad as back-up.
Despite going down to the Sharks in golden point last week's loss was arguably the Warriors' finest of the season as they fought back from 18-10 down against the competition front-runners to draw level with six minutes still to play.
Johnson's brilliance has been on full display in recent wins against the Broncos, Knights and Roosters and he is the man the Titans most fear as they too look to pick up a crucial two competition points heading into their second bye of the season.
The Titans missed 28 tackles against the Raiders last Sunday and have missed close to 100 more than the Warriors over the course of the season, their scramble defence often saving them from conceding more points.
Back-rower Zeb Taia has been the worst offender with 46 missed tackles and said the key to limiting the influence of Johnson was to present a united defensive line at all times.
"With that team you have got to defend them as a team," said Taia, who last played the Warriors in Auckland in Round 20, 2012 when he was at the Knights.
"Shaun Johnson loves it when someone is coming out of the line and trying to rush him, he's just got that magic feet to get around you and cause havoc, on the edges or even in the middle.
"He's so quick and so skilful that he can create anything from anywhere. That's one thing that we need to do, be on our game defensively as a team and make sure that no one is being lazy and we have to scramble well if something does go wrong.
"They attack a lot down their right so they're probably going to come down our side more than usual. Us as a team on that left edge we need to defend together really well."
Saturday's clash also serves as a homecoming of sorts for Agnatius Paasi, the former Warriors under-20s premiership winner to play his 33rd NRL game in Auckland for the first time.
As Paasi and his under-20s teammates were celebrating their grand final win in 2011 Shaun Johnson was preparing to play for the Warriors in the Telstra Premiership Grand Final later that evening and Paasi also believes keeping a consistent line in defence is crucial to stop him.
"We've got to watch him. When he gets the ball he pretty much destroys the line but if we form our line up and keep him in front of us we'll do a good job," said Paasi.
"These couple of weeks our missed tackles have gone up and down so that's one of the areas we've got to work on, our defence.
"Hopefully we can go out on Saturday night and prove that we are a top eight team."
Warriors prop Ben Matulino was also a member of the 2011 NRL team that lost the NRL grand final to Manly and someone Paasi is wary of this weekend.
"I've been watching them for a while and they've got a strong forward pack," said Paasi. "I reckon we've got the forward pack to match them and I'll be going up against him, coming off the bench too.
"We've got to go out and hit and stick. He's got a good offload so we've got to meet him and hopefully control that ball.
"You saw last Sunday we didn't get that much ball, I think it was 80 per cent to them and 20 per cent to us in the second half so we need that ball this week.
"We're good in attack, we just need to work on our 'D'."