Lance Hohaia gets ready for a row with the neighbours - but only for 80 minutes (From St Helens Star)
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Lance Hohaia gets ready for a row with the neighbours - but only for 80 minutes
LANCE Hohaia knows plenty about the bloke wearing number six that will be lining up opposite him in Saturday night’s play-off tussle.
He should do, Wolves linchpin Lee Briers lives next door but one to him on the way to Rainhill – but for 80 minutes the good neighbours will not be looking out for each other.
Playmaker Briers – a player discarded by Saints as a teenager – is a craftsman who can spot a weakness in the defence with his passing and kicking game.
The 28-times New Zealand World Cup winner Hohaia is a different sort of player – but one that has come into his own now that the whips been a cracking.
He has lots of respect – both personally and professionally – for his opposite number “He is a nice fella Lee and both he and his partner were kind to us when we moved into the neighbourhood. He is a good bloke and we have a laugh together.
“In the past I had played against him only occasionally for New Zealand because we only tackle Wales every four years or so.
“He is definitely a class player and one of the dangermen we need to keep an eye on. Lee is a very smart footballer who knows the game very well and how to get his team around the park.
“He has been there and done it before so I have no doubt he will play well on the weekend.”
Hohaia repeated a recurring theme coming out of Saints this week – with the defence being the key to victory.
“The last month we have been good defensively. Since the Manchester weekend when we lost to Wigan we have targeted the defence as one of the areas we had to knuckle down and get better at if we wanted to be in the position we are now.
“Thankfully we have done the hard work and taken that on board and thankfully it has worked well for us.
“Any team that wants to be at the top you have to be consistent at everything you do. Defensively we have been there or thereabouts and our attack has been fairly good too.
“The key thing for us this weekend is getting our defence solid straight up,” he said.
It is never easy for a newcomer to settle in when that team does not perform – and Hohaia had some teething troubles at first, particularly when he was swapped around from full back to hooker.
That coincided with the team going through a rocky spell that saw them languishing in the lower reaches of the table when former coach Royce Simmons departed in March.
That team has shown great resilience to finish in third and stand on the threshold of yet another Old Trafford trip.
“We have been through a lot of ups and downs as a group but we have shown character. At the start of the year nobody really gave us a chance of being where we are now, one thing I have learned is rugby league is a long season and so many things can happen during the year. You just have to keep working hard as a group and persevering – we have worked hard together and maybe not being in the Challenge Cup has allowed us to freshen up a little bit for Super League.
“At this stage of the year everyone is playing well and that is what you want – you want confidence in your team mates and beating Wigan and Warrington definitely gave us a lot of confidence and now we are looking at this weekend as a game we can definitely win.