NRL: Rapira and Fisiiahi return for Warriors

By Michael Brown

Prop Sam Rapira returns after recovering from the hand injury that kept him out of Sunday's 28-4 defeat to Cronulla. File photo / NZPA
Prop Sam Rapira returns after recovering from the hand injury that kept him out of Sunday's 28-4 defeat to Cronulla. File photo / NZPA

Warriors coach Matt Elliott has kept faith in his players by naming a largely unchanged side to take on North Queensland at Mt Smart Stadium on Easter Monday.

In reality, he doesn't have much choice. With a treatment room still bulging with as many as 12 of the first-grade squad out - including Manu Vatuvei (ankle), Nathan Friend (shoulder), Steve Rapira (ear), Jerome Ropati (knee) and Russell Packer (bicep) - he's once again turned to the players who have been so disappointing this season. Friend is nearing a return and might come into consideration if he's given the all-clear by the surgeon.

Prop Sam Rapira returns after recovering from the hand injury that kept him out of Sunday's 28-4 defeat to Cronulla and winger Glen Fisiiahi has also been named to play after the recent loss of his sister to cancer.

It means Bill Tupou has been named on an extended five-man bench and 19-year-old Ngani Laumape, who made his debut against the Sharks, retains his place.

He gained 116m from 13 runs on Sunday, the most of any Warriors player, but it doesn't mask an otherwise limp performance from the side.

"There was little to be pleased about in our performance against Cronulla but Ngani's effort was certainly one really positive feature," Elliott said. "He has worked hard throughout the offseason and did all he could in the trials and for the Vulcans. He didn't let anyone down at all on Sunday."

The problem is many of his teammates did.

The Warriors were beaten in every department by Cronulla and there was little to enthuse about the performance. They lacked fluency, potency, bite and ideas. They are in a massive hole that only hard work, some inspiration and perhaps a little luck will get them out of.

The Warriors will take on a Cowboys outfit who will be equally hurting. They were among the early favourites for the title but were thumped 34-6 by Newcastle on Monday night on the back of their tough 32-10 defeat to Melbourne.

"On the back of our last two performances you would say we're pretenders at the moment," star five-eighth Johnathan Thurston said. "It's pretty embarrassing, 60-odd points in the last two games. We really need to pull our finger out, that's for sure."

The Cowboys, who have named an unchanged side can be a little vulnerable on the road but, in truth, the Warriors are vulnerable home and away at the moment.

Teams for the NRL rugby league match between the Warriors and Cowboys at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Monday (6pm):

Warriors: Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Ngani Laumape, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino, Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (c), Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pita Godinet, Bill Tupou.

Cowboys: Matthew Bowen, Ashley Graham, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston (c), Michael Morgan, Matthew Scott (c), Scott Moore, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Anthony Mitchell, Ashton Sims, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo, Blake Leary.

- APNZ

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