David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors searching for creative spark

Tui Lolohea and the rest of the Warriors attack have been sub-par this season. Photo / photosport.nz
Tui Lolohea and the rest of the Warriors attack have been sub-par this season. Photo / photosport.nz

The Warriors are hoping to rediscover their creative spark after failing to capitalise on a wealth of attacking possession in last night's disappointing 24-12 NRL loss to the Bulldogs in Dunedin.

The Warriors had countless chances to post points with a five-nil penalty count helping them remain camped down on Canterbury's line for much of the opening 25 minutes, but managed only one try off a grubber kick to Bodene Thompson.

The Auckland-based side have struggled on attack in their last two games without captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who sat out the Forsyth Barr Stadium clash due to a concussion suffered in last week's 26-10 loss to Melbourne.

The make-shift spine of fill-in fullback Tui Lolohea, five-game rookie five-eighth Ata Hingano, halfback Shaun Johnson and hooker Issac Luke have all produced moments of positive individual play but as a group have looked disjointed and lacking cohesion.

They were kept scoreless for the final 63 minutes against the Storm and have managed only two line-breaks in the last two games, while looking short on ideas when in attacking position.

McNamara echoed head coach Stephen Kearney's post-match comment that the Warriors attack was "clunky" but defended the efforts of the side's two playmakers.

"There's improvement (needed) in all areas," said McNamara. "We probably didn't get enough speed or momentum to our attack particularly in those good ball areas when we were attacking the try line.

"We were playing off some slow play the balls and boys were trying extremely hard in and around that area.

"Those two (Johnson and Hingano) and you can include our hooker Issac Luke, and Tui at fullback, as a unit they've got to work really well together and they've got to connect really strongly with each other and we've got to support that with the rest of the system around it."

Despite their troubles with the ball in hand, the Warriors coaches were most disturbed by the ease with which the Bulldogs were able to post two late tries after both sides were locked in an arm-wrestle throughout the third quarter.

The on-going assignment is to raise the players concentration levels to last the full 80 minutes and ensure they can close out games defensively rather than fading out of the contest.

"We know we've got plenty to a fair bit to work on but it's part of building a team that can be really positive in attack and defence and we're working extremely hard towards that goal.

"We understand where we need to get to and what we need to do."

They are likely to be without veteran wing Manu Vatuvei for next Sunday's important clash against St George-Illawarra in Sydney, with the 30-year-old facing another stint on the sidelines after re-injuring his left knee before departing play in the 53rd minute.

The Warriors hope Tuivasa-Sheck will recover to take his place in the side and expect Kieran Foran to make his long awaited club debut in the next fortnight.

Foran is approaching full fitness after a long-standing shoulder injury and its anticipated he'll be on deck by round five at the latest.

"It will be this week or next," McNamara said of Foran's likely first outing. "We're really pleased with his progress. He's looking really well. He's obviously got to through the process.

"Of course it's been a big injury and we don't want to rush him back a week too early or whatever it may be, but all the signs are that he's looking really fit, strong and healthy.

"He's a chance of coming back this week and obviously losing Roger, hopefully we have a couple of players to boost the squad."

- NZ Herald

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