Palavi back to lead Vodafone Junior Warriors
Friday 3 August 2012 3:15 PM
Second rower John Palavi returns from a one-game break to captain the competition-leading Vodafone Junior Warriors in their 22nd-round NYC clash against Cronulla at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (11.45am kick-off local time).
Head coach John Ackland opted to rest Palavi from last Sunday’s encounter with Manly after he had played almost every minute of the first 18 matches of the year.
Palavi, who turned 20 on Tuesday, ranks among the top three in the team’s work-rate areas. Only prop Ligi Sao and fullback-winger Peta Hiku have made more metres and carried the ball more times than Palavi while he ranks behind only David Bhana and Sao for most tackles made so far.
Palavi is back on Sunday to guide an ever-improving Vodafone Junior Warriors side now aiming for a seventh consecutive win having disposed of Cronulla, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Newcastle and Manly since a 10-14 loss to Penrith on June 11. Victory would move the team within one win of the club’s best NYC streak of eight consecutive victories spanning seven wins up to and including their 2010 grand final triumph and the opening round success against Parramatta last year.
Last Sunday’s 42-22 success against the Sea Eagles provided more evidence of the back-to-back 2010-2011 NYC premiers rediscovering their most intimidating touch. They bolted to a 30-6 lead soon after halftime and, while they released the pressure valve to allow Manly to come back to 22-34 late in the game, they finished strongly for a 20-point victory.
The key numbers created a clear impression as the Vodafone Junior Warriors made almost 1500 metres to Manly’s paltry 876; they carried the ball 177 times, Manly just 110; Manly had to make 316 tackles compared to 202; the Vodafone Junior Warriors had a 26-5 advantage in offloads.
The nature of the performance and the winning margin was all the more pleasing for Ackland and his staff because the Vodafone Junior Warriors were without key personnel.
Apart from Palavi being rested, Carlos Tuimavave was in Perth with the NRL squad. Their absence resulted in Ackland pairing tyros Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard in the second row while Omar Slaimankhel, named to start on the wing, was switched to Tuimavave's standoff spot which, in turn, meant the big Tongan bus Toka Likiliki started on the wing yet again.
Likiliki made 105 metres while three of the other back five also went past 100 metres, fullback Peta Hiku with 152 metres, winger David Fusitua 118 and centre Ngani Laumape 112. Props Sao and newcomer Albert Vete were the busiest ball carriers on the field, both making 20 runs with Vete gaining 172 metres and Sao 169. Powerhouse interchange hooker Trent Bishop was again destructive especially out of dummy half, his total of 121 metres gained including 98 from nine dummy half runs.
With five conversions halfback Mason Lino topped 100 points for the season so far while hooker Siliva Havili (12) and centres Ngani Laumape (10) and Ngataua Hukatai (10) leading the team’s try-scoring race.
Apart from Palavi coming back into the side, Slaimankhel moves back to the wing this week and Eko Malu is set to start at standoff.
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
11.45am, Sunday, August 05
Referee: Gavin Reynolds
VODAFONE JUNIOR WARRIORS
1 PETA HIKU
2 OMAR SLAIMANKHEL
3 NGANI LAUMAPE
4 NGATAUA HUKATAI
5 DAVID FUSITUA
6 EKO MALU
7 MASON LINO
8 LIGI SAO
9 SILIVA HAVILI
10 NATHANIEL PETERU
11 ADAM TUIMAVAVE-GERRARD
12 JOHN PALAVI (c)
13 DAVID BHANA
14 TRENT BISHOP
15 SIULONGOUA FOTOFILI
16 ALBERT VETE
20 TOKA LIKILIKI
21 JORDAN MEADS
23 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
COACH: JOHN ACKLAND