Richie Barnett on league
Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Reward in sight for improved Warriors

Shaun Johnson looks more confident since playing in the recent Anzac test. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Shaun Johnson looks more confident since playing in the recent Anzac test. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The side playing against the Titans on Sunday looks like one that can start winning games. It's a pretty solid team and one that can turn tight defeats into results.

It may sound unusual to suggest the Warriors are in a good place considering they have won only one game this season, but I think they are about to come in to some form and finally get rewarded for some improving performances.

The number of close defeats this season highlights the fact they are not far off. They narrowly went down to the Roosters (16-14), Rabbitohs (24-22), Canberra (20-16) and Melbourne (28-18) and are showing some reasonable consistency in their performances.

As a player, it would be easy to dwell on what has happened and let it get you down but the most important thing is to build on it.

The side to play the Titans on Sunday looks capable of winning games - turning tight defeats into results.

The front-row rotation is back together and making an impact and the spine of Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai and Nathan Friend is starting to click. It has taken time for Leuluai to get his head around his role and how his teammates operate, and Johnson looks more confident since playing in the recent Anzac test.

These two hold the key to any Warriors resurgence.

They have quite a task ahead of them against the Titans, however. Gold Coast have had their share of injuries but are still a settled side and halves Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly are growing in confidence each week.

They will bring a very grunty, Origin-style pack with them to Mt Smart Stadium.

The loss of Ashley Harrison to injury is a big one and David Taylor's form has so far been ordinary but they have plenty of firepower.

Their left edge, in particular, looks strong with Greg Bird, Jamal Idris and Taylor but, equally, they are vulnerable down this area when on defence and this is where Bill Tupou, Jerome Ropati and Feleti Mateo can do some damage.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott has been critical of refereeing standards lately - not in a way that has got him in any trouble - and it's hard not to feel sympathy for him.

Some of the decisions have been ridiculous but I don't believe they have been restricted to just Warriors games.

The rulings around hands on the ball in the ruck are the most contentious area and often decisions made by referees can be the difference between winning and losing.

I haven't seen the Warriors disadvantaged more than other teams but it can often seem that way when your team is struggling. The pressure on coaches is enormous and Elliott will be feeling it after their poor run of results.

Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart let it get to him recently when he had a go at referees in a post-game rant which did little more than leave him A$10,000 poorer.

The easiest way for coaches to think less about refereeing is to win games and that's exactly what Elliott will hope happens this weekend.

- NZ Herald

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