Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles
Mount Smart Stadium
Saturday 5pm (NZT)
Round 20 presents Manly with their final chance to rescue something from a disastrous season, while the Warriors will look to bounce back from a demoralising 24-0 loss to the Roosters which has them clinging to a spot in the top eight.
Hope had been starting to build at Brookvale Oval as Geoff Toovey's men strung together three wins out of four games through June and July, but they were all but ended after a 30-12 defeat to the Cowboys on Monday night.
Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans remains in real doubt after leaving the field with injury in Round 19, but at this stage the side is unchanged from last week.
The Warriors received a nasty reminder that they remain a bit off the pace of the Telstra Premiership's top teams last Sunday, being shut out 24-0 by the Roosters in an encounter where they never rarely fired a shot.
With young centre David Fusitu'a out with a knee injury coach Andrew McFadden has been forced to call on Glen Fisiiahi to play right wing. He becomes the 29th player used by the Warriors this year.
Prop Sam Lisone has been added to a five-man interchange in an otherwise unchanged side.
Watch out Warriors: Reckless use of the ball cost the Kiwi side any chance of beating the Roosters, as they repeatedly handed over the ball - making 11 errors and completing at 71 percent - which allowed their opponents to dominate the possession count. The Warriors sit tied with the Titans for the most errors in the competition and know that reducing their mistakes is directly linked to their chances of victory.
Forget where they sit on the ladder, the Sea Eagles might just be the most dangerous non top-eight team in the competition right now. With attacking weapons like Brett Stewart, Kieran Foran and Cherry-Evans back firing of late, Manly have shown they can score points with the best of them, averaging 23 points in their last five games.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Some of it can be put down to a torrid injury toll, but the Manly forwards really haven't delivered in 2015. As a team the Sea Eagles have run for less total run metres than any side bar the Titans, averaging 1,479 per match. This week they face a strong Warriors pack who have seldom been stood over this year, and matching them will be a crucial to the eventual outcome of the game.
The Warriors may sit on a less-than-terrifying 5-3 record at home this year, but at Mount Smart Stadium they have scored over 20 points in all but one of their games this year, averaging out at 26 per game. On the other side of the ball they have been solid on Auckland soil as well, averaging only 20 points against per match.
Key Match-Up: Tuimoala Lolohea v Steve Matai. A wily Kiwi veteran will aim to take down a youngster making all the right moves in his first full year of NRL footy. In his 10th season of first grade Matai has been a solid presence on Manly's left edge, running for over 100 metres in nine of his 13 games so far, with seven tries. On Saturday he marks up on the lethal Lolohea, who has a high involvement wherever he plays in the side, averaging 12 runs for 116 metres this year.
The History: Played 26; Sea Eagles 18, Warriors 8. A fantastic overall head-to-head record for Manly over the Warriors is also represented in the recent history, where they have won eight of the last 10 meetings. The Kiwi side have tasted victory against this week's rivals just four times since 2005.
What Are The Odds: So far punters haven’t been able to split these two, and Sportsbet have received money for both teams to win 1-12 in margin betting. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Did You Know: In 19 NRL games across two seasons Warriors' utility Lolohea has only ever scored at home. All eight of his four-pointers to date have come at Mount Smart Stadium, and he has recorded a double in each of his last two home games.
Match Officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Shane Rehm. Video Referees: Ashley Klein and Steve Folkes.
Televised: Sky Sport – Live from 5.00pm NZT. Fox Sports - Live from 3.00pm AEST.
The Way We See It: At their best this year Manly have shown that they are capable of playing just as well as the Warriors, who sit six points and places above them on the ladder. But Monday's loss to the Cowboys put a stop to any late-season momentum which may have been building for the Sea Eagles, and a Warriors side at home, with redemption on their mind after last week, should be too much for them to handle. Warriors by eight.