William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent, NRL.com
Wests Tigers v Storm
Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Both these sides are still well and truly in finals contention, yet appear to be heading in opposite directions.
Melbourne put another stamp on its premiership credentials last week with a convincing 30-8 win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
Should results on the weekend fall their way the Storm could very well be in a position to cement themselves two games clear in the top eight by Monday night.
Their 'Big Three' look fit and firing and the outside backs that looked depleted earlier in the year are now menacing. Even their once-maligned defence has restricted the opposition to single figures in two of the past three weeks.
However, while Melbourne’s season appears on the ascent, Wests Tigers' appears to be in freefall.
Robbie Farah angrily disputed claims he has criticised the coaching credentials of Mick Potter but a statement by the Tigers’ board on Sunday night that contract negotiations with Potter have been put on hold until the end of the season may indicate things are on shaky ground.
On-field things have not been much better.
After starting the season winning five of its first seven games Wests Tigers have not recorded back-to-back wins since – winning just four of their past 11.
However this week provides a multitude of reasons to right the ship. Be it for the coach, the captain, the fans or for former teammate Simon Dwyer.
The Tigers will be donating $5 for every adult ticket and family pass sold from the game to the Simon Dwyer fund while the NRL will also be donating a further $5
for every fan who attends Monday night’s game.
Despite last week’s loss Potter has backed the same side again, naming an unchanged line-up from the one that went down to the Dragons on Sunday.
Meanwhile the visitors have stuck with their winning formula, and look set to be without change from the side that claimed victory over the Broncos.
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Watch Out Wests Tigers: Halves headache… again. Tigers fans would have been happy to see the back of Gareth Widdop last week after Englishman’s masterful display… Too bad Cooper Cronk is waiting this week. The four-time Dally M halfback of the year laid on three try assists, one line break assist as well as a line break and try of his own to seal the win over Brisbane. If Wests Tigers thought Widdop was a handful, it may be a touch of déjà vu when the Storm playmaker comes to town.
Dropping their bundle – when Wests Tigers lose, they lose big. Just one of their nine defeats this season has been in single figures. The result has been an average losing margin of 19 points and a negative points differential that sees them in 11th spot despite being tied on points with the 7th-placed Cowboys.
Watch Out Storm: Woods the Wonder Kid – at 23 years of age Aaron Woods is arguably the best young prop in the game. Following on from an outstanding 2013 season that saw him lead Wests Tigers for metres gained, Woods has repeated that feat this season, averaging 136.9 metres. He works hard without the football too, ranking first at Wests for tackles per game with an average of 31.4. Woods will face a tough test this week against Jesse Bromwich, a prop who has come into his own in 2014.
Plays To Watch: Marika Koroibete – joined the Storm a month ago from Wests Tigers and has repaid the faith with a try in each of the past two weeks. The Fijian will be out to prove the Tigers wrong after scoring 12 tries in his 16 games for the club. Bromwich has flair – not only does Kiwi international Jesse bring his power game he has the skills to boot. It was on show last Friday night with a clever offload to set up Ryan Hinchcliffe under the posts. Given the powerhouse prop averages almost two offloads a game it will be a trick the Tigers’ defence must be wary of. After one of the best show-and-go moves you will ever see against the Dragons, Blake Austin has given fans a taste of a party trick we are all hoping to see on a regular basis.
Where It Will be Won: Crucial start – one cannot help but think the team that is leading at halftime will go on to win this one. A good start is vital for both sides for different reasons. The past two weeks have seen the Storm two tries to the good of their opponents inside the opening 15 minutes. They will need to put together a similar opening stanza in order to silence what should be a parochial crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. The Tigers are enduring a nightmare off the field in the build up to this game. What better way to dispel their worries than with a blistering start in front of their home supporters? Should they head into halftime behind though, Wests have already shown this season their tendency to fall by the wayside.
History: Played 24; Wests Tigers 9, Storm 15 – Storm lead the overall but the last ten meetings have been split down the middle with five wins apiece.
What Are The Odds: Tigers ($2.85) v Storm ($1.42)
Seemingly no-one wants to touch the Wests Tigers during their coaching crisis and as a result, there’s five times the money invested on the Storm ($1.42) in head to head betting. Storm 13+ is a clear leader in margin betting as well. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referees – Ben Cummins, Chris James; Touch Judges – Brett Suttor, Grant Atkins; Video Referees – Jared Maxwell, Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live, 7pm (AEDT).
The Way We See It: Hard to tip against form. The Tigers looked great against the Bulldogs a fortnight ago but that result aside have had a poor second half of the year. A resurgent Storm side with wins at Brookvale and Suncorp already this season have shown they are not afraid to spoil a hometown party. Storm by six points.