Finals football has come early to Brookvale Oval as these two sides look to confirm a spot in the post-season while putting the other under all sorts of pressure to make it.
Not long ago plenty of experts had the Sea Eagles heading for the top four and the Warriors the scrap heap, but if the Kiwi-based boys can get over the top of Manly here, the Sea Eagles face the real prospect of missing the finals altogether.
The same can be said in reverse, despite the fact the Warriors have two extra competition points. With a differential of just 10, the Warriors are in the spot where three losses would likely move the percentages into the negative, placing them in danger of missing out in a tiebreaker situation. Another win, however, would solidify their finals campaign.
The Sea Eagles have a differential of 54, giving them more hope of qualifying with just one more win, but they need two wins to be certain…and probably three to host a home final.
The home side comes into the contest in seventh after the Monday night loss to the Dragons knowing a loss could see them plummet to ninth.
A win, on the other hand, could potentially have them leapfrog three teams into fourth.
William Hopoate comes into the side at fullback, pushing Michael Robertson to the wing and Michael Oldfield out of the side. However, doubt remains about his recovery from a hamstring strain so he may be missing come kick-off.
For the visiting Warriors, buoyant after a win over Newcastle, this match represents a great chance to sew up some September action. They have named the same side and sit in sixth knowing a win not only guarantees finals football, but also could move them as high as third, while a loss could see them sink to eighth with tough matches against Brisbane and the Eels to come.
They have stuck with the same side from last weekend.
Watch out Sea Eagles: When big games roll around, big-game players emerge – and for the Warriors, centre Brent Tate is warming to the challenge.
A former Test and Origin star, Tate knows his involvement in this team needs to be lifted for the Warriors to prosper and with the knowledge he’ll be leaving at season’s end for North Queensland, he feels he owes the club his very best as they push for a premiership.
He averages just 88 metres a match this far but is primed for more involvement; he has six line-breaks and five tries but leads the club with 24 offloads, his forte.
Watch out Warriors: The Sea Eagles are going to attack through the middle of the ruck, and often, despite the fact the Warriors have been pretty strong defensively in this area.
With 23 tries scored up the middle of the park, the Sea Eagles are the second most prolific team in the NRL. Against the Dragons last Monday they made several half-breaks and breaks, only to be denied by some unbelievable and relentless Dragons defenders.
With all due respect, chances are the Warriors won’t be quite as good defensively, giving the Manly boys plenty of chances to post points while playing to their strengths.
Where it will be won: According to a story in this week's Big League magazine, which pinpoints what distance teams excel and struggle with in terms of tryscoring, the crucial area of the field for these two teams is the corridor between the 10- and 20-metre lines.
It might sound very specific but stats over the season show the Sea Eagles have scored the most tries in the competition from this corridor (25) while the Warriors are second and right behind them with 24. Teams generally love attacking from here, as it is close to the line… but not too close which prevents them getting the ball quickly to the edges or the wings. The Sea Eagles love pushing the ball to the wingers from here, as do the Warriors.
Manly have conceded 16 tries from this distance, while the Warriors have conceded 22, the most of any team left in finals contention.
Both sides need to really muscle up defensively here and communicate better, making good reads on numbers and overlaps before they’re exploited.
The history: Played 18; Sea Eagles 11, Warriors 7. Manly have won six of the past eight against the Warriors, including a 14-6 win over them in New Zealand earlier this season.
However, the Warriors did upset the Sea Eagles in the last match played at Brookvale (26-24 last year). And the Warriors are the only side with a positive record at Brookvale, having won five of their eight games played there.
Conclusion: Manly might have copped a mini-hiding from the Dragons on Monday night but they showed patches of play that would have almost certainly have yielded points against any other side in the competition.
Here, they need to be ruthless and back themselves against the creeping Warriors who maintain a spot in the finals make-up despite little support from expert tipsters.
The home side should get the job done but the Warriors have refused to go away all year and now they have the taste of September on the tip of their tongues. They want to cement a spot now.
All things considered, stick with Manly – unless you are really pressing for an upset.
Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Steve Lyons; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Gavin Morris; Video Ref – Russell Smith.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm.