Okay, so maybe ‘romp’ is an exaggeration, but there’s definitely plenty to be positive about following the Warriors’ four tries to one, 18–4, win over Penrith at the weekend.
Sam Tomkins looked every bit like a marquee signing. Tomkins had plenty of critics last year, largely because of his mixed start to the season and the huge price tag that accompanies any discussion about his quality. If the weekend is anything to go by, this year he’s out to prove all the doubters wrong. He made things happen every time he joined the attacking line, his quick hands and superb angles are evident in the clips below. But, as you’ll discover, defence is what gets me going, and I loved how confident and assured he looked at the back. Whether it was under the high ball, positioning himself for last-ditch tackles or fielding kicks into the in-goal, the Wigan Warrior was everywhere.
There was plenty of niggle in that game. I’m not sure who started it (although I have my suspicions Jamie Soward was involved somehow), or why it was there, but it was great to see both sides going at each other in an essentially meaningless match. From a fan’s point of view, sometimes you can take a loss if you see enough fight and desire in the performance. If that’s the standard they’ve set in a trial match, there’s going to be a lot fewer disappointing days at the office in 2015.
The battle for the second centre spot is well and truly on. I’ve got little doubt that Ngani Laumape will, barring injury, line up in the centres for Round 1. He’s a battering ram on attack who’s always looking for work and an underrated defender, but Solomone Kata is giving it all he’s got. Kata is raw and still makes a few errors from time-to-time, but his combination of skill and speed makes this a much tougher decision for Cappy McFadden than he might have expected. With Konrad making one centre spot his own and Matt Allwood also coming from Canberra with a big reputation, Steve Matai may need to find a different retirement village come 2016.
Sam Lisone could be an absolute superstar. I’ve spoken about Sam previously, and I hope I get to mention him so much you’ll be sick of hearing about him by the end of the year. Week after week he does the little things right, plays with huge energy, and his sidestep at the weekend to set up Shaun Johnson’s try was something special. He might need an injury to one of the other big-boppers in order to get a shot, but I can’t see anything other than a bright future for Big Sam.
SET OF SIX. A few extra notes from Saturday’s game, and in the interest of being positive, I’ll start with the good things, then keep the negatives as short as possible.
The scramble D was brilliant. Penrith had a strong side who threw a lot at the Warriors, but time-after-time, even when the Panthers looked threatening, there was always a body or two in the way. Stan van Gundy would have been proud. (Parental Guidance Recommended!)
Great positioning from Hoffman – ‘What’s he doing there?’ you might argue, but I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s used all his experience to read the situation perfectly. Another great rescue from The Hoff.
Tui Lolohea is a standoff. Please stop playing him on the wing or at fullback.
Let’s hope Shaun Johnson just forgot his goal-kicking boots.
So many penalties. The referees were trying to make a point, and they made it loud and clear. The objective to speed up the game is a good one, I just hope all parties find a happy medium before the start of the season, or we may not actually get a completed set before Round 3.
This new release rule is going to be inconsistent all year. See above (and playing the ball on the mark, stripping the ball in the tackle/loose carry and every other rule the NRL has tried to iron out) — please sort this quickly. Hope I’ve made things clear!