Sao facing time on sideline

Sao facing time on sideline
Vodafone Warriors forward Ligi Sao is helped off the field by team doctor John Mayhew and physiotherapist John Love during Saturday’s NRL trial against the Dragons. Image | www.photosport.nz

Injuries came into sharp focus in the aftermath of the Vodafone Warriors’ loss to St George Illawarra in Saturday’s NRL trial at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.

But while new signings Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ligi Sao plus long-serving wing Manu Vatuvei all left the field during the 10-46 defeat only one of the three is set to be side-lined for any length of time.

Vatuvei exited the game after 25 minutes when he picked up a head knock hunting down a last tackle bomb. He didn’t return but there are no concerns about him being ready for the club’s NRL season-opener against Wests Tigers in Sydney on Saturday, March 5.

Plans to give Tuivasa-Sheck a solid workout in his first full outing for his new club were also thwarted.

After being used extensively in the Downer NRL Auckland Nines, it had been hoped the club’s new spine would have ample time together against the Dragons.

However, Tuivasa-Sheck also went to the bench early. He was heavily involved in his time on the field, featuring with a splendid cut-out ball to give wing Solomone Kata his first half try. Despite missing valuable game time Tuivasa-Sheck is all set for the match against the Tigers.

Sao’s injury is more serious. 

The ex-Manly forward had again impressed with his work in the middle but had to be helped off the field after dislocating his left shoulder in the second half. The full extent of his injury is yet to be confirmed.

Losing Vatuvei and then Tuivasa-Sheck forced a lot of backline reshuffling.

Jonathan Wright initially replaced Vatuvei on the left wing but was subsequently switched to the right where he scored his second half try. Lolohea, who started in the centres and also had a short stint on the left wing, went to fullback when Tuivasa-Sheck was taken off while Kata finished up on the left wing after starting on the right and also having a run in the centres. 

Konrad Hurrell, Ata Hingano and Matt Allwood were also injected into the backline at different stages.

Of the 22 players in the squad only Shaun Johnson, Blake Ayshford, Kata and Lolohea were used for the full 80 minutes or close to it

With the start of the NRL and New South Wales Cup seasons just two weeks away, the Vodafone Warriors are set to have most of the squad available.

Apart from Sao, Thomas Leuluai, Sione Lousi, Toafofoa Sipley, Henare Wells and Mason Lino are the only players expected to miss the start of the season. Leuluai is scheduled to return in round five, Lousi, Sipley and Lino in round four and Wells in round three.

Bodene Thompson, Jacob Lillyman, David Fusitu’a, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and John Palavi have been on the injured list recently and weren’t available for yesterday’s trial but all are all set to be available for the first round.

Yesterday St George Illawarra gave the Vodafone Warriors a tough examination in the Nelson trial.

It was all the more disappointing that it coincided with Simon Mannering’s last game as captain and his first in his home town.

Match details:

At Trafalgar Park, Nelson

Vodafone Warriors 10 (Solomone Kata, Jonathan Wright tries; Tuimoala Lolohea conversion).

St George Illawarra 46 (Euan Aitken 2, Josh Dugan, Kurt Mann, Tyrone McCarthy, Jack de Belin, Gareth Widdop, Siliva Havili tries; Gareth Widdop 7 conversions).

Halftime: 18-4 Dragons.

Referees: Chris Sutton and Gavin Reynolds.

Crowd: 10,400.

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