Manly Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers
The 13th-placed Wests Tigers enjoyed what could prove to be a pivotal victory over the Rabbitohs last week. Without Origin stars Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah, the Tigers ripped the Bunnies apart.
This Friday they face yet another huge test against another team desperate for victory. Coming off a bye week, the Manly Sea Eagles are as keen as ever to pull themselves off the bottom of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
They'll have to do so without star centre Jamie Lyon, who will be out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. Peter Hiku moves in from the wing to cover for Lyon, while young star Tom Trbojevic starts on the wing and Tom Symonds moves to the back row with Justin Horo out for a week with suspension. The Sea Eagles will be sweating on the availability of star halfback Daly Cherry-Evans following Origin II.
Meanwhile for the Wests Tigers, Aaron Woods returns from Origin for front-rower Sauaso Sue who is out with a shoulder injury. Robbie Farah has not been named to back up from Origin.
Watch Out Sea Eagles: Martin Taupau is coming off one of the most dominant performances of any player this season. He showcased his unrivalled power with two powerhouses tries and 11 tackle busts in an impressive all-round display. He could be even more dominant on Friday night against a Sea Eagles pack that has been criticized for lacking muscle. Manly will also have to deal with the added responsibility of halting Mr Momentum, Aaron Woods.
Watch Out Wests Tigers: The future of the Manly Sea Eagles, Daly Cherry-Evans, plays in front of his home crowd for the first time since committing to the club on a 'life-time deal'. In enemy territory DCE was a shining light for an otherwise disappointing Sea Eagles side in their last outing against the Broncos, but this week he will be running out to a chorus of cheers. Cherry-Evans has all the tricks and against a relatively inexperienced halves pairing on Friday night, he and Kieran Foran have the skill to control this match.
Key Match-Up: Kieran Foran v Mitchell Moses. If there's ever a chance for young Tigers five-eighth Moses to prove he has what it takes to be a force in this year's premiership it's this Friday against Foran. The Manly playmaker is known for being a hard-as-nails defender while Moses currently leads the NRL for missed tackles with 54. If Moses can muscle up in this one opposite Foran it will go a long way to ensuring an important Tigers victory.
The History: Played 21; Sea Eagles 13, Wests Tigers 8. The last time these two sides met, Manly claimed a convincing 40-8 victory against the injury-hit Wests Tigers at Brookvale Oval. It was Manly's ninth consecutive victory at their home ground.
What Are The Odds: Five times the money has been placed on the Tigers to win this one than Manly. Sportsbet has received more wagers on the Tigers to win 13+ than any other margin option. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Televised: Live Channel 9, 7:30pm
Match Officials: Referee – Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee – Chris James. Touch Judges – Russell Turner, Adam Reid. Video Referees – Shayne Hayne, Daniel Irvine.
The Way We See It: The Tigers are riding high after a dominant Farah-less and Woods-less victory last week but face a huge challenge on Friday night to continue their mid-season turn around. While they may have the advantage in the forwards, the Sea Eagles halves are likely to dominate the playmaking match-up. If Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses can step up to the level of their opposites, the Tigers will run away victors, however we think it's just too much to ask. We reckon the Sea Eagles will muscle up in the middle and DCE will have a blinder in front of his long-term home crowd. Manly by 8.