Big Match-ups: Round 18
Sea Eagles v Tigers: Jamie Lyon v Chris Lawrence
Two of the game's classiest centre pairings go head-to-head at Brookie on Friday, and if their 2014 stats are anything to go by there could well be nought between them at the end of the 80 minutes. Both Lawrence and Lyon have scored four tries this year, made three line breaks, and averaged 14 tackles a game, and while the 25-year-old Tiger has run for more metres (1279 v 971), Lyon's status as the more dangerous ball-player of the two is evident in his five try assists and eight line break assists compared to Lawrence's two line break assists. Having been outpointed last Sunday by Penrith's Dean Whare, who bagged a brace of tries on Lawrence's left edge, the former Kangaroo can expect the likes of Lyon and inside men Brett Stewart and Daly Cherry-Evans to direct traffic his way fast and often, and he'll need to be at his best to contain the veteran Sea Eagle, who has scored five tries in the seven games he has lined up on Lawrence.
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Warriors v Eels: Manu Vatuvei v Semi Radradra
Arguably the two most powerful wingers in the competition, this pair truly do act as extra forwards for their sides. Radradra averages 126 run metres per game, just edging out Vatuvei’s 125, while the Fijian flyer has 15 tries in as many games. Now in his 10th season of NRL football, Vatuvei continues to get better with age and has 11 line breaks and 39 tackles busts to date.
Storm v Bulldogs: Jesse Bromwich v James Graham
Two of the game's best forwards will go head-to-head like raging bulls on Saturday night. One a Kiwi, the other a Brit and weighing in at a combined 220 kilograms, this forwards match-up will be of mouth-watering proportions. Graham is ranked second in the competition, Bromwich third, for hit-up metres and given the Origin stars for their respective teams will be below full fitness, the battle between these two behemoths could prove to be the deciding one.
Titans v Raiders: Paul Carter v Shaun Fensom
Amidst all the tall timber in the respective forward packs, expect these two to go hammer and tongs in the middle and seek each other out because for once they face an opposite with whom they match up physically. Both Carter and Fensom are lion-hearted performers who play well above their weight, with Fensom narrowly having an edge in both weight and height over Carter. But that won't stop the Titans lock forward. A star in the early rounds in his rookie season, Carter is still smarting after letting himself and his teammates down with an off-field indiscretion that cost him two weeks on the sidelines and displayed his determination to make amends with a man-of-the-match performance last start against Souths. These guys inspire others with the aggressive way in which they play the game and come up and even though their stats may differ, this is a match-up well worth watching.
Sharks v Knights: Michael Lichaa v Adam Clydsdale
This key match-up involves two younger hookers who have been thrown into the deep-end of the NRL. With 20-year-old Lichaa and 21-year-old Clydsdale going head-to-head this weekend, it'll add a spanner into the works of both team's game plans. Lichaa has played well with John Morris currently injured and Isaac De Gois moving on to the Eels before June 30. The young City representative has produced 165 tackles in seven games (with only one missed tackle) while also helping his team with a lone try assist and line break assist. While his opponent on Sunday is more accustomed to coming off the bench, Clydsdale is averaging 20.9 tackles per match and has scored a try, made a line break and produced two try assists and line break assists each this season.
Panthers v Broncos: Jamie Soward v Ben Hunt
The Broncos halfback and Dally M contender leads the NRL in kicks (196) and kick metres (6000). The next bloke? Josh Hoffman with 30 and 896m. Soward (145, 4624m) has the edge over Wallace (96, 2637m) but will now be pulling the strings on his lonesome on Monday night. Quite simply, the game will revolve around these two men, who'll touch the ball at least three times a set, and the one who can take control of the game better will come out on top.