Greg Prichard,, NRL.com
Warriors v Titans
Mt Smart Stadium
The Warriors look a lot better than their last place on the competition table suggests. They may have lost their past three games – against the Rabbitohs, Raiders and Storm – but they could have so easily won all three. They are putting things together pretty well most of the time, but lapses in concentration are costing them dearly. They aren’t on their game for the full 80 minutes.
The Titans are a strange team. When they fire, they look like one of the best teams in the Telstra Premiership, but they can throw in the odd shocker as well. There are no excuses for the enormity of losses they have had at home against the Broncos (32-12) and the Knights (30-6). They are in seventh place, with a win-loss record of 4-3, but it is hard to give them your complete trust.
This is a good opportunity for the Warriors to get back into gear with a win. They are at home, after playing their two games on the road, and young halfback Shaun Johnson is finding form after a slow start to the season. The Titans have some very experienced players, but the team’s confidence may have been knocked around a bit by what happened at home against the Knights.
There are significant changes to both teams from the previous round. Centre Konrad Hurrell is out for the Warriors, replaced by Ben Henry, who switches from the second row. Manu Vatuvei returns on the wing, replacing Ng Lau. Simon Mannering returns in the second row. For the Titans, Kevin Gordon returns on the wing and Brad Takairangi replaces Luke O’Dwyer in the centres. Steve Michaels drops from the wing to a five-man bench. Nate Myles moves from prop to lock, filling in for Ashley Harrison, and Luke Bailey goes from the bench to prop. Beau Falloon rises from the bench to replace Matt Srama at hooker. Mark Ioane and Sam Irwin have been added to the bench.
Watch Out Warriors: He may have finished on the losing side, but Titans halfback Albert Kelly still managed to rack up some impressive figures against the Knights. He ran for the most he has in a game all season – 129 metres – and made a line-break and scored his team’s only try.
Watch Out Titans: Warriors fullback Kevin Locke had gone close several times, but he hadn’t clocked up 100 metres of running in a game this season until he registered 129 in the loss to the Storm. He made a line-break as well. That’s more like the Locke who can do something special.
Plays To Watch: Whether he’s playing in the more familiar second row or at centre, Simon Mannering has the ability to explode on to the ball at pace and give the opposition something to chase if he hits a gap. At his running best he made 163 metres against the Rabbitohs three rounds back
Jamal Idris doesn’t do it nearly often enough to be described as consistent, but occasionally he has a breakout game where the defence struggles to handle his size and power. He was one of the better Titans in their loss to the Knights, and is capable of making an impact here.
Key Match-Up: Rival second-rowers Feleti Mateo and Greg Bird know how to breathe new life into the attack by getting the ball away in a tackle. Mateo has 17 offloads for the Warriors this season, while Bird has 15. One of them could make the difference between his team winning or losing in this game.
The History: Played 12; Warriors 6, Titans 6. The Warriors have won four of the six games played at Mt Smart Stadium.
Match Officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Shane Rehm; Video Referees – Henry Perenara & Luke Patten.
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. Plus latest live scores, breaking news, comprehensive match highlights and full match replays.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live, 12 noon (AEST).
The Way We See It: Unless they are fooling us completely, the Warriors can’t be far away from a win. The Titans could make it difficult for them, but returning to their home ground could make the difference for the Warriors in this game. Warriors by six points.
*Statistics: NRL Stats