Schick Hydro Preview: Wests Tigers v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Most punters expected the Sea Eagles to click straight away. Why wouldn't they? Nate Myles, Martin Taupau, Lewis Brown and Jake Trbojevic sure make up a handy forward pack especially when Daly Cherry-Evans is leading them around.
Few anticipated the sluggish start to their campaign, after the kicked off the year with a 28-6 loss to the Bulldogs at Brookvale Oval.
On the flip side the Wests Tigers were one of the highlights of Round 1. Led by Mitch Moses and James Tedesco last year's cellar-dwellers looked a completely different outfit after sinking the Warriors by eight points.
The Tigers welcome back Luke Brooks and Dene Halatau from suspension in place of Jack Littlejohn and Jack Buchanan, who return to NSW Cup.
Manly coach Trent Barrett meanwhile has reshuffled his forwards to allow for the NRL return of Josh Starling and Brenton Lawrence who replace Blake Leary and Darcy Lussick.
Watch out Tigers: Taupau's return to Leichhardt Oval could prove an important one. With Barrett shifting the Kiwis representative to the back row the rookie mentor is undoubtedly looking to utilise the explosiveness in Taupau's game we have come to know and love. In saying that, the Tigers will be looking to make their former teammate's return as unmemorable as possible.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Brooks's return should only expand the Tigers' attack. Coach Jason Taylor opted against using Manaia Cherrington for 80 minutes last week meaning Littlejohn spent time at hooker and Chris Lawrence ended up in the halves. Brooks should only complement Moses as the Tigers look to take their free-flowing attack up a few notches.
Key Match-Up: Mitch Moses v Dylan Walker – Walker's nervy start for the Sea Eagles last week did his team no favours but given time the former Rabbitohs centre should slowly develop in the role. Walker's lack of experience impacted Cherry-Evans's performance against the Bulldogs which is something he'll be mindful of. Moses however had no such troubles as he guided the Tigers to a huge first-half lead by producing two try assists. Walker could learn a few things from his opposite man on Monday night.
The History: Played 22; Wests Tigers 8, Sea Eagles 14. The Sea Eagles have won six of their past eight against the Tigers dating back to 2010. They only played once last year, in Round 15, when the Sea Eagles emerged 10-point victors. They will be hoping they can produce a similar result to secure their maiden 2016 win.
What are the Odds: The Tigers opened at a huge $3.20 but that was snapped up as soon as they knocked off the Warriors in Round 1. The money is running four-to-one in favour of a Tigers upset. Their price is expected to shorten even further as we get closer to kick-off. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis and Tim Roby.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – coverage from 6.30pm AEDT.
The way we see it: It could be another week of development for the Sea Eagles as they continue to build. Cherry-Evans looked sharp in Round 1 but it means nothing if his teammates don't provide options for him to utilise. The Tigers' return to Leichhardt should continue aid their early-season form. Wests Tigers by 8.