NRL: Vatuvei cleared to take on the Bulldogs

Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Getty Images
Manu Vatuvei. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors received more good news in the wake of their first win of the season after learning Manu Vatuvei has been cleared of a dangerous tackle.

The giant wing was put on report for his tackle on Parramatta's Willie Tonga but, although there were similarities to the tackle that earned Bulldogs second-rower Frank Pritchard a one-game ban, the NRL's match review committee found Vatuvei had no case to answer.

Tonga appeared to fall into the tackle with Vatuvei, whose shoulder came into contact with Tonga's head.

Vatuvei played a major hand in the Warriors' 36-20 defeat of the Eels on Monday night and it was a welcome return to form after the 26-year-old's error-laden performance against Manly the previous weekend. He was good in the air, ran for 114 metres and made two offloads, one line break and five tackle breaks.

The Eels did, however, score down his wing when he drifted in-field and was beaten on his outside, one of a handful of errors from the Warriors on defence.

Coach Brian McClennan said afterwards their defence needed to improve but opposition teams would need to score a lot of points to beat them.

They have already conceded nine tries in two games this season - five have come inside the opening quarter - but it doesn't help they are missing the likes of Jerome Ropati, Sam Rapira, Jacob Lillyman and Micheal Luck through injury and have a handful of inexperienced players in their place.

Countering that is the fact their 10 tries and 56 points are the most of any team in the competition.

"We've got a few young guys out there and they are developing real well," McClennan said.

"There is some growth in us and that is what we will work on. We've got a lot of points in us, we've just got to stiffen up our defence a bit and I think we will be a fairly hard team to play against."

McClennan said last week he encouraged his side to play with freedom - "I believe Kiwi rugby league followers like a bit of footy being played," he said - and it was evidenced by the fact they produced twice as many offloads as the Eels. They scored some good long-range tries and others from good set-plays.

Unsurprisingly, McClennan has named an unchanged 20-man squad to meet the Bulldogs for their first game at Mt Smart this season. Little can be read into the squad, given they arrived back in the country late yesterday afternoon, but there is also little need for McClennan to change much.

It means Krisnan Inu, who was named to start against the Eels but began the game on the bench, has again been listed to start, but both Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell had strong games against Parramatta.

Hurrell, in particular, impressed with his strong running which resulted in a try, although later a poor carry near his line led directly to an Eels try.

"There's not a lot you can do after coming off a match the night before," McClennan said. "Our focus today has been on recovery and travelling home. We'll get back to work tomorrow as we prepare for the game against the Bulldogs and have a close look at the squad.

"We've showed in our first two games that we've got a lot of footy in us but there are areas we know we need to improve on."

The Bulldogs, coached by Des Hasler who guided Manly to the title last season, are one of only three teams with perfect records after the opening two rounds. They have beaten Penrith 22-14 and the Dragons 30-4.

WARRIORS

Sunday, 2pm Mt Smart Stadium
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Ashley Klein

Kevin Locke
Bill Tupou
Konrad Hurrell
Krisnan Inu
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Shaun Johnson
Sione Lousi
Nathan Friend
Ben Matulino
Feleti Mateo
S.Mannering (c)
Elijah Taylor

Warriors: Russell Packer, Ukuma Ta'ai, Ben Henry, Lewis Brown, Glen Fisiiahi, Alehana Mara, Sebastine Ikahihifo (three to be omitted).

BULLDOGS

Ben Barba
Steve Turner
Josh Morris
Jonathan Wright
Bryson Goodwin
Josh Reynolds
Trent Hodkinson
Aiden Tolman
Michael Ennis (c)
Sam Kasiano
Frank Pritchard
Dene Halatau
David Stagg

Bulldogs: James Graham, Greg Eastwood, Corey Payne, Joel Romelo, Martin Taupau (one to be omitted).

- APNZ

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