TWL RD 1: WARRIORS V DRAGONS PLAYER RATINGS

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The first bunch of marks out of 10 for the Warriors in 2022, with a couple of hyper-impressive middle forwards getting the early jump in TWL‘s POTY standings.

1 CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA: Not a fullback, despite giving it a red-hot crack. Interestingly, it wasn’t the high-ball situations, positional play or ball-running workload where he was most found wanting – it was an inability to find any rhythm chiming in on attack. Finished with 106 metres from 11 runs and came up with some critical stops, but also made three ordinary errors. Probably the best five-eighth option going forward but didn’t do a great deal to push his cause there. 5.5

2 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK: Firstly, great try out of nothing – he’s capable of that type of stuff and it’s valuable. But after getting away with a ultra-risky long ball near his own line in the first half, the former Kiwi captain had a second-half shocker with a bad error that led to a vital Saints try and another horror fumble that was solely down to his lackadaisical approach and lack of awareness. Racked up just 65 from 11 runs, an area that is traditionally his strength. A shocker that will be tolerated initially on reputation but shouldn’t be if it’s repeated. 4.5

3 VILIAMI VAILEA: Had some moments ranging from shaky to poor on both sides of the ball, but wasn’t aided by his insides in either instance. Maybe I’m giving the young fella a free ride here, but I thought he showed a fair bit of pluck under duress – there was nothing disastrous and opposing giant Moses Suli was kept largely in check. Eight runs for 59 metres. Tough kid. 5.5

4 ROCCO BERRY: A couple of Ravalawa’s tries didn’t reflect too well on the inexperienced Berry’s defensive qualities, but he made some other great stops among 20 tackles (one miss) and ran strongly for 64 metres on eight carries without getting any great opportunities. Like Vailea, another step on his rugby league education for a player that reeks of genuine long-term first-grader. 6

5 MARCELO MONTOYA: Oh boy, it’s hard to overlook the 2021 surprise packet’s opposite’s three tries, each of which was worse than the last for Montoya. Looking at the positives, he was easily the most effective ball-runner of the Warriors’ backline, peeling through 149 metres (65 post-contact) from a (by far) team-high 19 runs. Couple of errors too. 6

6 KODI NIKORIMA: The hope was Kodi would revel in a freewheeling role with SJ steering the ship. But Nikorima’s only notable contribution for the bulk of the game was some poor option-taking that led to sets dying meekly on the last tackle. Sprung into action in the dying minutes with his side was down by 12 when the best option was to get out of the road and let Johnson try and conjure something. A passenger who needs to take this opportunity ASAP because he won’t (or shouldn’t) get too many more chances with some quality alternatives waiting in the wings. 4.5

7 SHAUN JOHNSON: Some great moments, some shockers – and ultimately not the fairytale we hoped for. Had a key hand in all three tries, though, as well as producing a sensational 40/20 in the lead-up to the third. A bunch of passes failed to hit the mark and his cross-field kick gamble was very much ill-advised and costly, but if that wasn’t the most commanding kicking game by a Warriors since 2018 then I’ve got a poor memory. Looks lean, fit and hungry – hugely encouraging even if he couldn’t get them over the line tonight. 6.5

8 ADDIN FONUA-BLAKE (C): A powerhouse in 64 minutes on the paddock, making a team-high 151 metres from 11 runs – including a stunning kick-off return bust – and 30 tackles. A low-percentage pass that handed good ball to the Saints was the only real black mark against the performance of a player who should have designs on Dally M Prop of the Year honours. 8

9 WAYDE EGAN: Some dud options from dummy-half early but otherwise slick and backed up superbly to score a first-half try. Made 37 tackles with just one miss. Not a genuine standout, not disappointing. 6.5

10 BUNTY AFOA: Played strong, done fine. Played 42 minutes and racked up nine runs for 73 metres along with 29 tackles. Not a lot to suggest he’ll be more than the fourth prop picked in the rotation, but nothing to hint he’ll fall out of that quartet anytime soon. 6

11 EUAN AITKEN: Has certainly found a home in the second-row. The only Warriors forward to play 80 minutes, Aitken chalked up 11 runs for 104 metres and an equal-game-high 40 tackles with just one miss. Still getting to grips with the right lines to run but looks like being very effective in his retrenched role. 7

12 ELIESA KATOA: Botching the line dropout to hand the Dragons the early momentum is hard to overlook and really seemed to struggle with timing on attack. But his try was a good confidence-builder and worked hard for 114 metres and 31 tackles in 72 minutes. 6.5

13 JOSH CURRAN: I’ve been trying to temper the overwhelming groundswell of adulation for a guy that had played only 20 NRL games heading into 2022, but he was just about the Warriors’ best afield today. Played his best footy of his breakout ’21 campaign as an edge second-rower but flourished at lock. Curran’s 11 runs for 104 metres included a powerful bust to set up Egan’s try plus a thrilling charge-down and regather early in the second half, while he matched Aitken with 40 tackles, missing just one. A heart-and-soul player that the Warriors can build a pack around. 8.5

 

14 JAZZ TEVAGA: Solid stint at dummy-half that included a hand in Katoa’s try. Didn’t feature prominently during 14 minutes as a middle forward but a return of 25 tackles in 33 minutes on the paddock is admirable. 6

15 BEN MURDOCH-MASILA: Played 18 minutes and made 43 metres from four strong runs, along with 11 tackles. Highly unlikely to be retained when Matt Lodge returns. 5

16 AARON PENE: Oooooo I like the look of this strapping fella. Got through plenty of work – eight runs for 69 metres and 21 tackles – in 21 minutes and the Warriors looked better for having him out there. Just looks high-quality. Don’t be surprised to see him settle in as AFB’s starting partner, for a better balance  because his performances warrant it. 7

17 BAYLEY SIRONEN: Somewhat embarrased to say I did not notice him at all. The stats give me a bit of a reprieve – he was on for 21 minutes and made 21 tackles, but did not run the ball once. Is there really a place for him in the 17 when everyone’s avaiable? 4

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