Warriors v Broncos preview
Warriors v Broncos
Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday 2pm (NZT)
Big victories last weekend for these two sides will mean little come Sunday afternoon, in a match which will celebrate the 20-year anniversary since they met in the Warriors' first-ever competitive match.
Sitting on identical two-win, one-loss records, both teams hit their straps last week – Brisbane winning 44-22 against the Cowboys and the Warriors beating Parramatta 29-16.
The New Zealanders can now lay claim to the Telstra Premiership's largest causality ward, with influential fullback Sam Tomkins the latest star to go missing through injury.
That means youngster Tuimoala Lolohea assumes the No.1 jersey with new signing Matt Allwood making his club debut in the centres, while Dominique Peyroux is added to a five-man bench.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has made no changes to his side for Sunday's clash at Mt Smart Stadium and will bring former Warrior Todd Lowrie along as 18th man at this stage.
The New Zealand club's marketing team is sure to put on a big show in recognition of the 20-year match, from there it will be up to the 17 on the field to make sure they meet the same expectations.
The chance to watch these forward packs go at it is just about worth the price of admission alone – of the 12 players starting in the pack for both teams, 10 have played for their country or state.
Watch out Warriors: It hasn't been hard to see so far in 2015 that the Warriors have struggled without Tomkins on the field, and his stats prove his worth. In just 91 minutes of football this season the former Wigan player clocked up four tackle breaks and two line-break assists. He has become an integral organiser for the Warriors on both sides of the ball.
After a dour start to the season where they scored just eight points in the opening two games, Brisbane will have gained plenty of confidence from last week's eight-try rout of the Cowboys. The Broncos were nearly unstoppable with the ball, breaking the line eight times, getting away 12 offloads and running for over 1800 total metres.
Watch out Broncos: The Warriors' left-edge is fast-becoming one of the most prolific in the competition. Last week between Ryan Hoffman, Solomone Kata and Manu Vatuvei they scored four of the Warriors' five tries and ran for 485 metres combined. Brisbane captain Justin Hodges and winger Lachlan Maranta will need to be at their defensive best while marking up on them.
The Warriors blew the Eels off the park in the opening quarter last week, all but securing the result before the half-hour mark. Across the whole first period in that match the Warriors were very strong, completing at 96 per cent, outscoring their opponents 22-0 and owning 70 per cent of possession. The Broncos can't afford to start slow against this mob.
Key Match-Up: Simon Mannering v Corey Parker. The two veterans wearing 13 will have a busy day in the middle of the park, cleaning up the damage done by the talented packs and speedsters both sides possess. Mannering has been in exceptional touch to start the season, averaging 50 tackles and just one miss per game as the backbone of the Warriors' defence. Parker too has just three misses in three games this year, and with an average of 121 metres per hit out is a genuine threat with the ball as well.
What Are The Odds: You would expect the Warriors to have strong support at home but Sportsbet punters have shown interest in Brisbane in this clash. There is twice as much money on the Broncos to cause an upset, while Brisbane 1-12 is the most popular margin. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Did You Know: This weekend former Raider Matt Allwood will become the 199th player to line up for the Warriors since their inception in 1995 – that's an average of 10 club debutants per season. The Cowboys, who came into the competition at the same time as the New Zealand side, have used 254 to date.
Match Officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant Referee: Grant Atkins. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Clayton Sharpe. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Luke Patten.
Televised: Sky Sport – Live from 1.30pm NZT.
The Way We See It: Both teams had big wins against poor opposition last week, but the Warriors went about it in a way which suggested they could have done it against most sides in the competition. Even without Tomkins the New Zealand side have more quality than the Broncos right now, and at home should be too good. Warriors by 8.