David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors coach defends decision to sideline Tui Lolohea

Tuimoala Lolohea of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.
Tuimoala Lolohea of the Warriors. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden has defended his decision to keep young gun Tui Lolohea on the bench until the 81st minute of last night's 15-14 golden point defeat to Manly.

McFadden has come under fire for keeping the versatile 21-year-old on the pine until the final stages of his side's heartbreaking loss in wet conditions at nib Stadium in Perth.

Questions have been raised as to why Lolohea was not used earlier in the second-half as the Warriors struggled to find a way through the Sea Eagles' unrelenting defence, but McFadden explained it was only because of an injury to centre Blake Ayshford that he saw any game time at all.

"I thought he'd have some energy but the reason we put him on was Blake Ayshford got hurt," said McFadden.

"It was an easy decision to get him straight out there but waiting on the bench that long, it's a pretty difficult position to be in. I knew that, so it was a tough one on him."

The wet and slippery conditions had foiled plans to inject Lolohea after halftime as an outside back replacement.

McFadden felt the Warriors were benefiting from having three bigger bodies carting the ball up, with vwingers Manu Vatuvei and Ken Maumalo and fullback David Fusitu'a, providing momentum.

Ayshford's late departure saw Lolohea thrust into the fullback position with Fusitu'a switching to right centre, but Lolohea managed just one touch before Sea Eagles playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans nailed a left-footed dropped goal to snatch victory in the 85th minute.

"That's what we planned to do with him, bring him on in the second-half but (with) the conditions it just didn't make sense to take Manu or one of those guys off because he's just not as big as those guys and they were doing such a good job of getting us forward," he said.

"We had Ken, David and Manu running the ball back and in those conditions it was the big men making the ground for us.

"It was working for us all that second-half. We thought for a long time about getting him on but we just couldn't find the right spot for him so we weren't going to make the change just for the sake of it."

In his return from a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for three matches over the past month, Vatuvei was guilty of making three handling mistakes, including one fumble as he attempted to play the ball and a knock-on from the kick-off following Bunty Afoa's second try.

Despite those errors McFadden was satisfied with the 30-year-old's contribution in his 218th NRL match.

"I was happy. He ran for 170 metres, he did his job.

"I know he had a couple of errors but the one off the kick-off was a curly one. It was a pretty tough catch.

"People will probably over-exaggerate because we lost by a point."

After doing so well to fight their way back into the match after conceding two tries to be down 12-0 after 14 minutes, the Warriors let slip several chances to win the match.

With the scores tied at 14-14, Issac Luke missed a penalty shot before Solomone Kata dropped the ball over the line inside the last quarter, and Vatuvei was forced into touch with just one player to beat.

Halves Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai had strong games but failed to get themselves into position to slot a field goal as the clock wound down.

"There were a couple of moments there with a missed opportunity to keep the pressure on, but they did a great job to keep the pressure on for most of the half. We just didn't take our opportunities.

"There was a period just before (the end) of regular time where we lost our way so that's something we'll have to discuss.

"The players played well and we're just going to have to live with that. It was a tough one to take."

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 24 May 2017 08:11:43 Processing Time: 757ms