David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

Sharks will target Warriors second-phase attack says Townsend

Chad Townsend of the Sharks runs with the ball during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Getty
Chad Townsend of the Sharks runs with the ball during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Cronulla Sharks. Photo / Getty

Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend says the table topping Sharks are determined to contain the Warriors second-phase attack in Saturday's intriguing NRL clash in Sydney.

The former Warriors playmaker is well aware of the ball-playing threats posed by his old friends and teammates after playing two seasons in Auckland before returning to his junior club over the off-season.

Watching on as the Warriors struggled through the opening half of the season was difficult, but Townsend is not surprised by their recent form revival that's brought a hattrick of wins over Brisbane, Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters.

"I'm still a big Warriors fan," he said. "It was a bit hard to watch at the start of the year, to be honest.

"I obviously know the boys personally and know what it's like to go through a couple of tough times and a couple of losses.

"But if people ever asked me, I said I backed the coach when I was there and I thought Cappy (McFadden) was doing a great job and I knew that they'd bounce back.

"They've got themselves back playing some good footy and we definitely know that we're going to be in for a tough game this weekend."

The 25-year-old believes limiting the visitor's offloads and go-forward will reduce the impact of Warriors hooker Issac Luke, as the Sharks look to remain unbeaten at Southern Cross Group Stadium this season and extend their 10-match winning streak.

"Last weekend (against the Roosters), the amount of offloads they had was just unbelievable," said Townsend.

"It was back to the old days and it was great to watch.

"That's an area we'll have to really knuckle down in to stop their offloads and second-phase.

"Off the back of that, Issac Luke had a lot of runs, and he's definitely a big threat for us."

A strong start to the season saw Townsend win a City Origin call-up and his game has continued to flourish alongside another former Warriors playmaker, James Maloney, who also spent three seasons at Mt Smart Stadium between 2010 and 2012.

"It's been great playing with Jimmy," he said.

"He obviously played in a grand final with the Warriors and played in Origin games.

"His big game experience and ability to take the right options at the right times in the pressure moments of games, is something that I'm trying to learn off him and implement into my game."

The pair both played alongside Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson, offering the side direction and structure, but Townsend's attacking role has broadened since his return to the Shire.

"This year the coaches have really drilled into me the importance of support play.

"As a half you can easily fall out of the game by trying to get the structure on. When there's a half-break or something, and you might be sitting back on your heels waiting for the set play.

"That's been a small focus for me but it's definitely helped my game."

With the Sharks in their 50th season and looking strong contenders to claim their first premiership, Townsend insists the side is not getting carried away.

"We haven't really accomplished anything yet while people are pumping up our tyres," he said.

"We want to be playing our best footy at the end of the year so we still know there's a long way to go."

- NZ Herald

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