Warriors v Storm: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Warriors v Storm
Mount Smart Stadium
Friday, 8.00pm (NZT)

Two opening round winners meet at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday night in what has become an unofficial NRL Telstra Premiership derby thanks to a history of thrilling matches. 

Both the Warriors and Storm were victorious by narrow margins last week, with the Kiwi side getting home 26-22 in a rollercoaster affair against Newcastle and Melbourne showing plenty of grit to edge past the Bulldogs 12-6 in torrential rain at Belmore.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has kept the same starting 13 from the Newcastle win, with Simon Mannering (neck) and Issac Luke (ribs) both being named despite failing to finish last week's match.

Prop Charlie Gubb is pencilled in to start, but will continue to be monitored after suffering concussion against the Knights, while veteran wing Manu Vatuvei is included on an extended bench for the home side after playing reserve grade in Round 1.

For Melbourne, the loss of Jesse Bromwich to a broken thumb sees Tim Glasby promoted to start in the front row, with Joe Stimson set to make his NRL debut from the bench.

Rookie playmaker Ryley Jacks is named at No.6 again, with Cameron Munster at fullback and Young Tonumaipea on the bench.

The match will be the Warriors' first Friday night home game since July 2011, when they beat the Bulldogs 36-12.

Why the Warriors can win: The right edge had a field day at the expense of Newcastle, as centre David Fusitu'a ran in three tries within the space of 13 minutes. While Fusitu'a's power and speed are his biggest assets, wing partner Tuimoala Lolohea has the added bonus of possessing the skillset of a halfback, something he used to full effect last week in forcing two dropouts with pinpoint short kicks, along with assisting a try with an impressive aerial catch and pass. They line up against a Storm left side combination of Cheyse Blair and Josh Addo-Carr, who struggled defensively at times last week and missed seven tackles between them. If the Warriors execute it correctly, it's a match-up which could yield plenty of points and be the difference.

Why the Storm can win: Melbourne leaked the fewest points of any team in Round 1, giving up just six against the Bulldogs. That follows on from a 2016 campaign where the Storm had the best defence in the competition through the regular season, averaging just 12.5 points against per game and missing the fewest tackles of any team. History suggests stubborn defence can quickly frustrate Warriors sides into unforced errors and poor decisions, and it's Melbourne's ability off the ball which shapes as the No.1 weapon in their arsenal heading into Round 2.

 


The History:
Played 38; Warriors 16; Storm 20; Drawn 2. The Storm own current bragging rights thanks to victories in each of their meetings against the Warriors in 2016, including a 42-0 demolition of the Warriors on Anzac Day. Playing in New Zealand probably doesn't worry Melbourne too much either, with 10 wins from 19 trips across the ditch.

What are the odds: For every dollar bet on the Warriors, there have been seven taken on the Storm, who will start the game as warm favourites with Sportsbet. Melbourne 1-12 is the favoured option in winning margin, however the Warriors are more popular in handicap betting, where they're receiving a small points start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au

Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant referee: Chris Butler. Sideline officials: Anthony Elliot and Jason Walsh. Review official: Jared Maxwell. Senior review official: Luke Patten.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6pm (AEDT). Sky Sports - Live coverage from 8pm (NZT).

NRL.com predicts: What better way to prepare for a trip to Mount Smart Stadium than by grinding out a tough win at a hostile away venue seven days prior? The Storm should arrive well prepared and despite losing Jesse Bromwich to injury last week, they have the better forward pack for Friday night's clash. The Warriors got out of jail against Newcastle, partly because their opposition were inexperienced when it came to closing out games, but they won't have that luxury against Melbourne. Storm by 7.