Warriors v Tigers
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 7.30pm (5:30 AET)
The heat is starting to rise in Auckland as the Warriors spluttered their way to back-to-back defeats last Monday, while in Tiger Town things are clicking and the views look pretty great from sixth position.
A 22-6 victory over the Eels in soggy conditions on Easter Monday has Robbie Farah and his teammates sitting on a 3-2 record to start the year and they will feel confident ahead of a meeting with the wounded Warriors.
The Tigers keep the same 17 from last week and are at full strength.
The hosts have just one change from the 30-14 loss in Melbourne, with young prop Albert Vete returning to the bench and Dominique Peyroux dropping back to 18th man.
Blockbusting winger Manu Vatuvei celebrates his 200th game and is a chance of breaking Nigel Vagana’s record for the most tries by a Kiwi in the Telstra Premiership on Saturday night.
The Warriors' winger sits on 138, requiring a hat trick to surpass the mark.
Veteran prop Sam Rapira remains a chance of being a late inclusion for the hosts.
Watch out Warriors: The Tigers have their own x-factor who lives on the left flank, and arrives in arguably career-best form. With a try and two assists last Monday, Pat Richards was the difference in an otherwise close encounter, reflected in his selection in NRL.com’s Team of the Week.
Jason Taylor’s men showed they are willing to trust their defence and stay patient in the pursuit of victory. The Tigers managed just one try in the opening 69 minutes against the Eels, before pouncing on their fading opponents to score 18 points in nine minutes.
Watch out Tigers: The Warriors love a celebration and tend to get up for special player milestones, especially at home. Vatuvei is the most-adored player at Mt Smart Stadium and his 200th game will have the local crowd buzzing. The Tigers will have to overcome more than the 17 on field to get victory this week.
Key Match-Up: Simon Mannering v Martin Taupau. The Kiwi international teammates have been on fire to start 2015, and will face off in the middle on Saturday night. Mannering is quite simply the glue that holds the Warriors together, averaging upwards of 50 tackles per game over the opening five rounds. Taupau on the other hand looks mad, plays mad and is the most-devastating ball runner the Tigers have. He averages over 100 metres in every match this season.
The History: Played 23; Warriors 12, Tigers 11. A 42-18 thrashing in their only meeting last year tipped the head-to-head balance in the New Zealand side’s favour. The Warriors have triumphed in two of the last three meetings, while five of the last six games between these sides have been decided by 10 points or less.
What Are the Odds: Sportsbet punters seem convinced the Tigers can make it a successful trip across the Tasman, with 10 times the money on the visitors in head-to-head betting. Tigers 13+ at $7.00 has been given an almighty workout.
Did You Know: Pat Richards debuted in the year 2000, four years earlier than fellow left wing Manu Vatuvei. But a long stint in the English Super League meant the veteran Tiger played just his 100th NRL game last Monday, while Vatuvei will celebrate his 200th appearance this weekend. The Kiwi international becomes just the third player to clock up 200 for the Warriors, joining Stacey Jones and current captain Mannering.
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Nick Beashel and Anthony Elliot. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Steve Folkes.
Televised: Sky Sport 7.3pm NZT. Fox Sports 5:30pm.
The Way We See It: Aside from a sound beating at the hands of the reigning premiers in round three the Tigers have been impressive in 2015, enjoying the fruits of their young playmakers and a forward pack which is scattered with representative talent. They will touch down in Auckland with plenty of confidence but if the Warriors can reduce their error rate by even just a quarter they are actually a decent footy team. Can they be better than the Tigers this week at home? Probably just, which should be enough to see the Kiwi side win by six.