Luke, Blair tell Warriors pack to lift for Dragons
Friday's top-of-the-table clash in Auckland may be billed as a showdown between the Telstra Premiership's best-attacking teams but the Warriors are adamant the contest will be won up front.
The Warriors, stung by their first loss of the season last Saturday against Brisbane, are looking to ensure the unbeaten St George Illawarra Dragons suffer the same fate.
In five of their first six games, the Warriors have scored more than 20 points while the Dragons' spine seems capable of scoring from anywhere as they continue to ride their hot start to 2018.
While a lot of pre-game attention will centre on the flamboyant attacking styles of both sides, it's in the middle where Warriors hooker Isaac Luke says his side need to match the Dragons.
"Us middles have to turn up for that physical battle. Me and Blairy [Adam Blair] took ownership of that last week, took responsibility for us being off as a unit," Luke said.
"This will be our biggest test, last week was huge for us and we were off. We have to go up again this week so, they're travelling really well and have some great players up front that are driving their team around really well at the moment."
Coach Stephen Kearney said after the Broncos loss that he felt his side "didn't front up physically" in the opening exchanges, and that was ultimately the difference.
Blair says that won't happen again.
"It [last week] was a little bit of a hiccup but we've moved on. New week, new start, new challenge and we are now preparing for a standout team in the Dragons," Blair said.
"We came up against a team in the Broncos that were more committed than us, that wanted it more so that's been a lesson for us.
"It's a tough competition we play in and no matter how you are feeling, you have to turn up prepared to play a big game every week."
Kearney said he felt the addition of James Graham to St George Illawarra's pack and the continued development of players like Jack De Belin and Paul Vaughan had provided huge boosts to the joint venture club.
Blair said the Warriors had upped the intensity at training to prepare for the Red V forwards.
"They have quality international forwards, a lot of people are saying they're the best pack in the competition at the moment so for us it's a challenge for our middles and we know we weren't up to it last week," he said.
"We have to bounce back pretty quick. We came out to training with a lot of energy and that's going to be what's needed on Friday is to come out committed as a group and turn up with the attitude that we are going to get stuck in.
''If we don't, well, they could put a score on us."