Sea Eagles v Warriors
A freshly fired-up Warriors outfit will head to fortress Brookvale with renewed confidence after back-to-back wins in New Zealand, including a strong showing over the lacklustre Roosters. But Sydney’s northern beaches are a long way from Auckland and the Manly boys will be a vastly different proposition to a Roosters side that just could not click into gear as the Warriors put in their best performance of 2011.
The Sea Eagles may still be scratching their collective heads as to how they got out of jail against the Sharks, who looked certain to hold on to their lead after having their cross-town beach rivals down 13-0 with just 20 to go. But a couple of late Manly tries and a field goal calmly slotted by Daly Cherry-Evans got them level, before an amazing last-gasp try to Michael Oldfield sealed the deal at the final siren.
The Sea Eagles won’t want to leave it quite so late again this week, and will also have some extra reinforcements as they prepare for what is traditionally a tough match against the Warriors.
Anthony Watmough and Terence Seuseu return from their one-week suspensions for off-field misdemeanours. Watmough takes his place in the back row, pushing Jamie Buhrer back to a massive seven-man bench that also features Seuseu and last week’s try-scoring hero Michael Oldfield who may yet come in for Brett Stewart. Daniel Harrison is the only player from last week to drop out of the squad.
The Warriors have lost promising fullback Glen Fisiiahi with an ankle injury meaning Lance Hohaia returns to the starting side. Elijah Taylor will start in the back row again with Ukuma Ta’ai on the bench, while Russell Packer and Sione Lousi have been added to the interchange list.
Some milestones: Warrior Micheal Luck plays his 200th NRL game while the Sea Eagles’ Brent Kite is set to make his 150th appearance for the club.
Watch Out Sea Eagles: A change of club hasn’t slowed down the prolific offloading of enigmatic Warriors pivot Feleti Mateo. He’s looked a lot more dangerous since moving from the back row and is getting more involved. He is already comfortably leading the 2011 offload count with 16, ahead of several players on 13.
It may just be a coincidence that the Warriors lost three games with Mateo in the back row, then won their next two once he moved to five-eighth – but then again it may not. Mateo chipped in with a line-break assist and a try assist in the team’s victory over the Roosters, after registering zero of either during his three game stint in the back row. We get the feeling 2010’s leading offloader is just getting warmed up.
Danger Sign: Mateo will look to offload every single time he carries the ball. Reinstated fullback Hohaia and Mateo’s long-time teammate Krisnan Inu will be just two of the players ready to run through whenever they see Mateo getting an arm free.
Watch Out Warriors: With Watmough reunited in the back row with Joe Galuvao the two will have a licence to run rampant. Despite Watmough’s absence last week these two currently sit first and second for total metres gained for back-rowers in 2011. Galuvao ran a massive 155 metres against the Sharks from 20 runs in just 46 minutes, while Watmough averages a hefty 123.8 metres per match from his four appearances.
Along with fellow metre-eater Jamie Buhrer (101 metres per game) and representative lock Glen Stewart who is yet to hit his straps fully in 2011, the Warriors could have problems on both sides of the field if these guys get going.
Danger Sign: Matt Ballin and the Sea Eagles’ young playmakers will be happy to feed the back-rowers quality ball all day long. If the props get the defence onto the back foot early in a set, look for Watmough and Galuvao to carve some holes in it closer to tackle five.
Plays To Watch: Lance Hohaia getting involved with support plays and clever passing close to the line; cross-field bombs from Cherry-Evans, prolific offloading (as always) from Mateo; the Stewart brothers to return to peak form in front of their home crowd; carefree passing from the Warriors; a calmly slotted field goal from Cherry-Evans in the event things get close.
Where It Will Be Won: Back row ascendency. Both sides have plenty of strength across the park, including the front row, but if Manly’s big-name back row comes to the party it could give the home side the edge.
The Warriors will need Queensland-born tackling machine Micheal Luck (206 tackles, fifth in NRL) to do plenty of work to stop the likes of Watmough and Galuvao waltzing through the Warriors’ line at will.
They will also need the likes of rejuvenated former centre Lewis Brown (113.2 metres per game, two tries, two line-breaks) to be at his attacking best if they want to fight fire with fire.
The History: Played 19, Manly 12, Warriors 7. Manly have the overall advantage but the Warriors are one of those rare teams to actually have a winning record at Brookvale, with five wins from their nine visits.
However, Manly have won six of the past eight meetings between these two sides and have actually won three of the past four at Brookvale, suggesting the Warriors’ strength at the venue is slipping.
Also, the Warriors haven’t won outside New Zealand so far in 2011 (remember their victory over the Sharks was a Sharks home game played at Taupo) while Manly have played just once at Brookvale – for a rousing 26-12 win over the Knights in Round 3.
Conclusion: Manly will be relieved to have another game at fortress Brookvale after some tough away games. With their confidence high after their miraculous win last week and key players returning it will be a very tough ask for the New Zealanders to get over the line here.
Match Officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Brett Suttor; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Jason Walsh; Video Ref – Chris Ward.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 5.30pm.
* Statistics: NRL Stats.