Wests Tigers v Warriors Preview

Wests Tigers v Warriors
Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Friday 7.35pm

Oh boy… Strap in for some entertainment out in old Magpies territory, as this is a critical match for both sides if they are to continue entertaining thoughts of finals football in 2010.

Sitting in seventh (Warriors) and eighth (Wests Tigers) on the NRL ladder, the two clubs are in prime position to make a drive for post-season play. But with every other club barring Melbourne still in this premiership hunt, they are also in a precarious position should the losses start mounting again.

Both sides have seemingly overcome bad runs to steady their ship: the Warriors dropped three in a row recently before rebounding to beat the Cowboys and Rabbitohs in successive starts, while the Wests Tigers fell four times on the trot before getting up over the Knights last weekend.

A loss here could quite easily mean dropping out of the top eight, whereas a win ensures they’ll stay put for the time being and push up closer to the top four.

More importantly, this is about continuing momentum and getting the confidence necessary to make a real play for the title. Consistency in performance is what all teams strive for… one team will be on the right path after this game; the other will be back into the mire.

Both clubs are unaffected by Origin this week, offering no excuses not to be switched on and ready for high-class footy.

The Wests Tigers have kept the same side that found a way to win against Newcastle, although Josh Davis has been added as an 18th man and could still play.

The Warriors have sadly lost prop Sam Rapira to injury (dislocated patella) with Jesse Royal slotting into the side, and Jeremy Latimore or Joel Moon expected to cover a bench spot.

Watch out Wests Tigers: The Warriors love to pop a pass and create second-phase play at the best of times, but coming up against the Tigers they’ll have more reasons than usual to create from offloads.

The team from across the ditch has the third-most offloads in the competition this year (with 136) – almost four more a game compared to the Wests Tigers, who are equal last with just 97 offloads in 2010.

Thankfully for Tigers fans one of the Warriors’ best offloaders in Sam Rapira is out, but Brent Tate is the main man to contain with 19 already this year.

However, if the side thinks he’s the only man to watch, they are sadly mistaken… every man in the Warriors’ line-up has popped a pass or more this season making them deadly across the park.

Watch out Warriors: As revealed by NRL.com’s Stats Insider in his weekly Tuesday column, the Wests Tigers are the most prolific team when it comes to scoring from long range, and with their confidence returning against the Knights the side is set to chance their hand.

With 10 tries from over halfway in just 10 games, the Tigers know how to entertain; if the Warriors compress their defence to pressure the home side, Benji Marshall will get the ball to the edges and ran amok.

Having conceded just two tries from distance, the Tigers are very good defending this area.

Where it will be won:
Execution in attack and scramble in defence. Both sides are going to have plenty of chances to post points, as it shapes to be a pretty open affair.

With the rain due to clear on Friday, both sides can still go for the jugular in attack, but they will need to execute well to make the most of it. One gets the feeling this could be a try-for-try match, so the side that can put two or three together is likely to prevail.

Obviously if both sides are looking to attack, the scramble defence is the other aspect that needs to be on cue. The side that shuts a breakdown without leaking points will be doing very well. Both sides need to anticipate the other and work harder than usual in defence. Any lapse will be punished.

The history:
Played 16; Wests Tigers 7, Warriors 9. The Warriors have won six of the past seven clashes between the two clubs, making the Tigers look like cubs in the process. There have been three clashes at Campbelltown between the sides, with the Warriors holding a 2-1 advantage.  

Conclusion: While both sides won last time out, neither was terribly convincing and as such their form is a little hard to trust.

The Warriors have had the Tigers’ measure recently and they could certainly continue this trend – although the rocket placed under the Tigers the other week is still burning a few backsides and could be enough to see the joint venture side home.

Maybe the pressure needs to be firmly on Benji Marshall… if he fires again, as he did last weekend, the Tigers will win. If not, the Warriors could push higher up into the finals zone.

Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Steve Clark.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 9.30pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 12.30pm Saturday.