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Warriors name familiar team despite slump

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/05/2017 Angelo Risso

Fingers have steered well clear of panic buttons at Warriors HQ despite Saturday's club-record capitulation against the Panthers, with a mostly unchanged squad set to play the Dragons on Friday.

The Auckland-based NRL outfit threw away a 22-point half-time lead in western Sydney to lose 36-28, the worst collapse in the club's history.

Long-suffering Warriors fans - one of just two NRL fan groups to never taste Premiership glory - went into open online revolt after the match, burning jerseys and calling for complete squad overhauls.

But coach Stephen Kearney insisted he'd seen enough in recent weeks - especially in last fortnight's valiant win over the Roosters - to be comfortable about the side's progress, and write the Panthers game off as a blip.

He has stuck by his tried-and-true for Friday's round-11 clash in Hamilton, with only a calf injury to Solomone Kata and the continued absence of veterans Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering impacting his squad.

Bunty Afoa slots into Mannering's customary locking role, while Ken Maumalo returns to first grade and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad retains his spot on the wing.

Wantaway utility Tuimoala Lolohea, who was reportedly denied a contract release this week, has been named among the extended reserves.

"There'll be a couple of little adjustments that'll be best for the group but there won't be wholesale changes," Kearney said on Tuesday.

"We're all in this together and working our way through.

"There's a lesson every week, regardless of winning or losing."

The 12th-placed Warriors have already played the Dragons in 2017, handing their opponents an early 18-point lead and ultimately losing 26-12.

The Red V have defied plenty of pre-season expectations so far to sit in fifth on the ladder, with one of the most fearsome forward packs in the NRL.

Among the Warriors' pack, meanwhile, Ben Matulino will make his 200th NRL club appearance off the bench, with James Gavet and Jacob Lillyman to start.

Matulino, who will join the Wests Tigers in 2018, is just the fourth Warriors player to reach the milestone after Stacey Jones, Mannering and Vatuvei.

Kearney said he was confident his troops would bounce back from their loss against the Panthers quickly.

"I'm not going to let 33 minutes determine the work we've done over the last six or seven games," Kearney said.

WARRIORS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, James Gavet, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman, Bunty Afoa. INTERCHANGE: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Ligi Sao, Ben Matulino, Charlie Gubb, Mason Lino, Albert Vete, Tuimoala Lolohea.

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