Warriors v Canberra Raiders
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 5.00pm (NZT), 3.00pm (AEST)
Two of the NRL Telstra Premiership's most entertaining sides meet this weekend, with the winner almost assured of sitting inside the top eight at the end of the round.
The Warriors had their most convincing win of the year last Saturday, punishing the Titans with a 36-14 victory led by Shaun Johnson.
But the Andrew McFadden coached side still have a few changes ahead of Saturday's game against the Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium, with Sebastine Ikahihifo replaced by Albert Vete and Tuimoala Lolohea coming in for the injured Ken Maumalo on the right wing.
State of Origin stars Jacob Lillyman, who will play his 200th NRL game, and Ryan Hoffman return to the starting 13 after playing last week off the bench.
The Raiders on the other hand became the latest victim's of the fast-finishing Cowboys, going down 21-20 thanks to a Johnathan Thurston field goal with seconds remaining.
Coach Ricky Stuart has elected to take the same 17 to Auckland, but has included mid-season recruit Joey Leilua as 18th man.
Fans are encouraged to come along wearing their best onesie, with the game themed as the #OnesieParty in support of the Jammies in June campaign, which aims to reduce high rates of preventable illnesses by providing children in need with pyjamas.
Watch out Warriors: Canberra have scored more tries than any other team in the NRL to date, averaging four per game. Attack hasn't been an issue for Ricky Stuart's men in 2015, and in five of their six victories they have clocked up 29 points or more. If the Warriors experience some bad defensive periods they are sure to be punished.
Expect the unexpected when it comes to the Raiders. This season Canberra have frequently looked to the off-the-cuff plays to score their points, and have players scattered all through their 17 who can do it.
Watch out Raiders: Last week the Warriors completed over 80 percent of their sets for the first time since Round 8, and were a different team in the last half hour as a result. So often the area of the game where the Warriors have fallen apart this year, against the Titans they scored five tries and conceded just one in the final 30 minutes.
The Kiwi side ran through the Titans with ease last week, with a total of 1788 running metres and eight players who ran for over 100 metres individually. There were also monster efforts from front-rowers Lillyman [204m] and Ben Matulino [222m]. Canberra simply can't let the opposing big men get on a roll.
Key Match-Up: Shaun Johnson v Blake Austin. On paper they line up in different positions, but their shared ability to change a game in the blink of an eye makes their personal clash an exciting one. Johnson comes off his best game of the year, slashing through the Titans with 116 run metres, two line breaks and a brace of tries. Austin meanwhile is being labelled the buy of the year, celebrating his arrival in Canberra with 12 line breaks, 10 tries and an average of 86 metres per game.
The History: Played 33; Warriors 16, Raiders 17. The Warriors are riding a four-game winning streak over the Raiders, with three of those victories being by 34 points or more. Across 14 games played in Auckland, Canberra have tasted victory just under 50 percent of the time.
What Are The Odds: The money for Canberra has been running 2:1 with Sportsbet but punters are keen on both sides to win 1-12, suggesting we might be in for a close one. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Did You Know: Jacob Lillyman will play his 200th Telstra Premiership game this Saturday and 138th for the Warriors. That puts him on track to surpass Micheal Luck's record for the most games for the club by an Australian player [150 appearances] some time next year. Lillyman sits 12th overall in terms of the most games for the New Zealand club.
Match Officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant Referee: Chris Butler. Touch Judges: Jeff Younis and Anthony Eliott. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Ben Galea.
Televised: Sky Sport – Live from 5.00pm NZT. Fox Sports - Live from 3.00pm AEST.
The Way We See It: The Warriors have the chance to control their own fate in this one, knowing that if they complete at 75 percent or more and they probably win. Complete at less and recent history shows defeat is likely. The Raiders have plenty of talent, and points, but right now lack consistency in their spine. The New Zealanders on the other hand have Sam Tomkins back and boast form in the key positions. Warriors by 14.