Schick Hydro Preview: Warriors v Manly Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday, 7.30PM NZT
The Warriors and Manly were heavily tipped to be among the competition's big improvers in 2016, but both have had frustrating starts which don't reflect their star-studded rosters.
With a congested NRL Telstra Premiership ladder to navigate, a victory this Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium will be important, and for the Warriors it's about maintaining the momentum gained from their 40-18 demolition of the Knights in Round 4 and 32-28 golden point escape against the Roosters last Sunday.
They have one forced changed with Jonathan Wright named on the wing for Manu Vatuvei (hamstring). Albert Vete moves from lock to the bench and Sam Lisone vice versa.
Don't read anything into utility Thomas Leuluai being named as 18th man rather than in the 17, with coach Andrew McFadden confirming mid-week that he will play.
It will be Leuluai's first game since Round 10 last year – when he suffered a ruptured ACL in his right knee – with rookie Jazz Tevaga set to be bumped off the bench to accommodate his return.
While Manly battled valiantly against the Rabbitohs last week they couldn't prevent a 16-12 loss in the end at Brookvale Oval, but should benefit this week from an eight-day turnaround between games.
Tom Symonds comes into the back row in place of Feleti Mateo, while Jake Trbojevic also returns at lock after a week out with a knee injury.
Josh Starling will start in the front row with Darcy Lussick joining Brenton Lawrence on a six-man bench.
Watch out Warriors: Lapses in concentration cost them the chance to close the game out with 20 minutes to go last week, and instead forced them to do it the hard way in golden point. Between the 39th and 54th minutes the Kiwi outfit leaked three tries and let the Roosters back into the contest, compounding errors with penalties during that period.
Last week Manly's makeshift halves looked every bit at home, standing out as their side's best attacking weapons. Dylan Walker and Apisai Koroisau ran for a combined 250 metres and scored a try each. After being thrust into the No.7 jersey Koroisau also made three line breaks, the most of any player in Round 5.
Watch out Sea Eagles: Manly haven’t fully fired in attack at all so far in 2016 and average just 16.8 points per game. They are yet to clock up more than 22 in a match and this week face a Warriors side who score 24.4 on average. The Sea Eagles really need to get things going with the ball in hand if they are to challenge the Warriors.
They are totally different players in terms of their attributes, but Solomone Kata and Shaun Johnson have both been prolific so far this season. Between them they have scored 10 of the Warriors' 22 tries, while they have assisted a further four in the first five games.
Key match-up: Tuimoala Lolohea v Tom Trbojevic. Two of the competition's best young talents who you can be sure will pop up all over the field on Saturday. Lolohea, 21, was one of the Warriors' best last week, setting up two tries including the match-winner. He has four line breaks across the season. 19-year-old Trbojevic has excelled since moving back to the wing from fullback, running for over 100 metres in his last three games and averaging 17 runs over the same period.
The history: Played 27; Warriors 8, Sea Eagles 19. No team has dogged the Warriors more than Manly in recent times. The Sea Eagles have won 16 of their last 20 against the Kiwi side, including three on the trot.
What are the odds: Sportsbet customers have jumped on the Warriors' bandwagon and they’ve been backed to cover the line as well as win 13+ against Manly. Kata has been the most popular to score the first try of the game. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Nick Beashel, Shane Rehm. Review Officials: Bryan Norrie, Jared Maxwell. Senior RO: Luke Patten
Televised: Fox Sports – live coverage from 5.00pm AEDT
The way we see it: Based on some of the form they have shown so far in 2016 both of these sides are probably better than where they sit on the ladder. The Warriors really struggle to maintain concentration for long periods in games, but have shown over the last couple of weeks that they can overcome that and still get the job done. They should be too strong for this Manly side who are lacking the finishing touches in attack right now. Warriors by 10.