Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei celebrates a try against the Broncos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Warriors v Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday 4pm (NZ time)
The Warriors have dragged themselves off the ground after their humiliating, 62-6 loss to the Panthers three rounds back. Now, we wait to see whether they will continue to stand or whether it’s a false dawn and they are going to fall over again.
Wins over the Knights, 28-12 at home, and the Broncos, 56-18 on the road, have restored hope that the Warriors can get something out of the season – just when that hope had almost faded to black. The Broncos were torn apart by Origin commitments and injury, so it really was a great opportunity for the Warriors, but no-one saw them winning by such a big margin. They showed what we all know they can do when they are in the mood, but which had this season only happened in glimpses... until recently.
The Sea Eagles are a tough side who continue to work very hard in the forwards and use whatever space they create to get halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans into the action, creating opportunities for experienced outside backs including Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai and David Williams. It’s a formula that has served them well in recent years. They have had to do without star fullback Brett Stewart recently, and that is the case again here, but they have continued to perform well.
After winning five of their first six games, the Sea Eagles have had just two wins and a draw in their past five, but it has been a tough draw for them through that recent period. They lost to the Rabbitohs and Roosters, but drew with the Storm in a high-quality game and then backed up five days later to come from behind and beat the Raiders in their most recent outing. That was a splendid effort which showed a lot of character.
The Warriors have an unchanged side, apart from Suaia Matagi being added to what is a five-man bench.
James Hasson comes in for David Gower on the bench for the Sea Eagles, in the only change to their 17-man squad.
Watch Out Warriors: Glenn Stewart has now played five games for the Sea Eagles after making a delayed start to the season because of injury. He’s been tackling his head off while gradually getting his attacking game together, and he stepped it up against the Raiders. Stewart made 16 runs for 82 metres in that game. He has had three offloads in his past three games and is ready to become an attacking force on the right-hand side again.
Watch Out Sea Eagles: Konrad Hurrell is a dynamo. The Warriors centre returned from four games out with injury to make two line-breaks and score two tries in the big win over the Broncos. If he sees the slightest gap he goes at it like a fox goes at a chicken. The Warriors will be looking to attack because that is their way, and the Sea Eagles are going to have to be very tight in their defence out wide if they are to stop Hurrell from making an impact.
Plays To Watch: Thomas Leuluai has started running the ball with great results in recent weeks. In the first eight rounds, he had one line-break and no tries. In the four games since, he’s had four line-breaks and four tries. He’s going to try his luck again here, for sure.
Manly wingers David Williams and Jorge Taufua have scored 14 tries between them this season, and they are each very good at judging whether to try to catch attacking kicks to their wings or tap the ball back to supports. The Warriors must get across in numbers in defence to cover both possibilities.
Key Match-Up: Warriors fullback Kevin Locke ran for under 100 metres in each of his first six games this season. In his four games since, he has run for over 100 each time, and he had three line-breaks against the Broncos.
Peter Hiku, filling in for Brett Stewart, has only played four games for the Sea Eagles, but has run for over 100 metres in three of those, and had two line-breaks. The statistics say Locke and Hiku are both capable of having an influence on the result.
Where It Will Be Won: In the mind. The Sea Eagles are relentless, and knowing that the Warriors – even if they have improved recently – have mostly not played for anything like 80 minutes in games this season they will keep grinding away at them in search of those lapses in concentration. The Warriors are going to have to work harder than at any stage this season to win this one.
The History: Played 23; Sea Eagles 16, Warriors 7. The Sea Eagles have won nine of the past 10 clashes, including three out of three at Mt Smart Stadium. The Sea Eagles have the best winning percentage of any team at this venue (78 per cent).
Match Officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – Ricky McFarlane & Brenden Wood; Video Referees – Steve Clark & Justin Morgan.
NRL Live 2013 App: Gives you access to every NRL game this season on your iPhone or Android smartphone as it’s being broadcast on TV, with up to six live games each week including the Warriors v Sea Eagles clash. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.
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Televised: Fox Sports – Live, 2pm.
The Way We See It: The excellent record the Sea Eagles have against the Warriors is no coincidence. It’s largely because the Sea Eagles don’t stop whacking away, and the Warriors too often lose intensity or come up with stupid errors. The Sea Eagles will go to Auckland firmly believing they will win. Sea Eagles by eight points.
*Statistics: NRL Stats