Coach Ivan Cleary says the New Zealand Warriors will need to lift their game if they are to survive their National Rugby League (NRL) eliminator with the Sydney Roosters on Friday night.

Auckland became an unexpected venue for the first of the NRL’s semifinals this weekend after the Warriors stunned defending champions Melbourne 18-15 last Sunday.

The contest at Olympic Park was a thriller, featuring a grandstand finish from the Warriors, and the shock result breathed a new excitement into the finals series.

However, Cleary didn’t feel his players hit top form against the Storm.

“We turned over a lot of the football in the first half and we completed 24 sets in the game, which generally speaking is nowhere near good enough,” he said today.

“It levelled out because they probably didn’t play their best either, but if we go into this game with that sort of completion rate, we’re going to find ourselves in trouble.”

Cleary was happy with the Warriors’ preparations for their clash with the Roosters, despite a turnaround of just five days, compared with a full week for the Sydneysiders.

The accent had been on recovery, with fewer sessions than usual on the field.

The limited lead-up time had been an advantage in one aspect — it had helped the players to come down to earth after the high of topping Melbourne.

“A good thing about the short turnaround is that we had to let go of the Melbourne game quickly, which was certainly a good thing,” Cleary said.

“We’ve been focusing purely on the Roosters, who came over here this year and played better than anyone else.”

The Roosters are one of just three visiting sides to have won at Mt Smart Stadium this season, prevailing 38-12 in May when skipper Braith Anasta was in superb form.

One thing Cleary didn’t want repeated was the fast start the Roosters got on that occasion, with the Warriors having their line breached three times in the first 10 minutes.

“We didn’t have the ball until it was 14-0,” Cleary recalled.

“We tried to work our way back but, in the end, they were just way too good for us. The start is always important. I certainly hope they don’t start as well as they did that night.”

The Warriors go into the semifinal with an unchanged line-up for the third week in a row and will have a capacity 26,000 crowd to roar them on.

There was also a packed attendance at their last home playoff match, the qualifying final against Parramatta last year, when they went down to a disappointing 12-10 defeat.

Cleary said the main lesson from 12 months ago was the need to capitalise on opportunities created.

“I thought on the night we had more than enough chances to win,” he said.

“We probably dominated a lot of stages of the game and didn’t take our chances. In any finals game you have to do that.”

The Warriors have a slight historical advantage in head-to-head meetings with the Roosters, having won 11, lost 10 and drawn one.

They also hold an edge at Mt Smart Stadium, where they have won six of the 10 contests between the teams.

But the Roosters were the victors in their only previous meeting with the Warriors in a playoff match, the 2002 grand final.

They were skippered to a 30-8 victory by present coach Brad Fittler, while the Warriors’ line-up included Cleary at fullback.