Storm v Wests Tigers: Can giant-killers strike again?

Storm v Wests Tigers: Can giant-killers strike again?

The Tigers must have rolled their eyes when they first laid eyes on the opening two rounds of the 2018 draw.

But after claiming a big scalp with the round one upset of the Roosters, they are now probably relishing the chance to test themselves against the defending premiers so early in the season rather than dreading it.

The bad news for the Tigers is return of classy Storm fullback Billy Slater after shoulder soreness kept him out of the 36-18 win over the Bulldogs.

Melbourne are virtually impossible to beat at home, but Tigers coach Ivan Cleary and his players should certainly be in a positive frame of mind.

The selections

Billy Slater returns from shoulder soreness for the Storm to play his 300th NRL game against the Wests Tigers at AAMI Park this Saturday with Cameron Munster reverting to five-eighth.

Ryley Jacks drops out of the squad and Sam Kasiano retains his spot on the bench. Nelson Asofa-Solomona keeps his place at front row with Jesse Bromwich.

Ben Matulino is named to start for the Tigers with Matt Eisenhuth on the bench in the only change to the 17 that defeated the Roosters last week.

The key match-up: Cameron Munster v Benji Marshall. Whoever wins the five-eighths battle will heavily influence the result. Munster ran amok at fullback last week, but his running game is also dangerous in the halves. Marshall showed glimpses of form against the Roosters. Expect more cleverness from the experienced Tigers half.

For the Storm to win: Soak up the pressure and execute: the Storm handled the Dogs in round one with this formula. Slater's inclusion adds another playmaker, and they should feel comfortable racking up another big score. But it's their solid forward play – led by Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona – who match it with anyone up front.

For the Tigers to win: Their forward pack needs to dominate. Russell Packer and Ben Matulino can cancel out the Storm's pack with power and pace. Chris Lawrence and Elijah Taylor are also mobile – expect fast plays of the ball – as the Tigers look to set their youthful back-line free to slow the big Melbourne forwards down.

Storm Stat Attack: They love AAMI Park. The Storm scored on average 26.8 points per game last year at the venue, up from 22.9 in 2016. Opposition teams could only muster 14.0 points at AAMI. Melbourne drops a game at home once a blue moon.

Tigers Stat Attack: The Tigers hated the road last year. They only won one out of 11 games. Their average scoring dropped from 20.3 points per game to 19.3 on the road. Perhaps they need to get a bus like the Dragons? Whatever the tactic, Wests must find their attacking mojo quickly.

And another thing: Kenny Bromwich plays his 100th NRL game this Saturday. The Storm forward played 53 of 54 games over the last two years, only missing 2017's Anzac Day clash against the Warriors for the birth of his fist child. His older brother, Jesse, is rapidly approaching 200 games (currently on 184).

The prediction: Storm by 16.

Match: Storm vs Wests Tigers

Full Time
Storm

Home Team

Storm

Scored 8 points
Wests Tigers

Away Team

Wests Tigers

Scored 10 points

Venue: AAMI Park

Match broadcasters:

  • Fox League
  • LIVE PASS

Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane

Interchange: 14 Tim Glasby, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Christian Welch, 20 Sam Kasiano

Reserves: 18 Young Tonumaipea, 19 Joe Stimson, 20 Billy Walters, 21 Brandon Smith

The above team is subject to change one hour before kick-off.

Tigers: 1. Tuimoala Lolohea, 2. Corey Thompson, 3. Esan Nike Marsters, 4. Kevin Naiqama, 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6. Benji Marshall, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Russell Packer (c), 9. Pita Godinet, 10. Ben Matulino, 11. Chris Lawrence, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Elijah Taylor.

Interchange: 14. Matt McIlwrick, 15. Alex Twal, 16. Michael Chee-Kam, 17. Matt Eisenhuth,

Reserves: 18. Joshua Aloiai, 19. David Nofoaluma, 20. Tim Grant, 21. Tyson Gamble.

The above team is subject to change one hour before kick-off.

Saturday March 17, 7.35pm AEDT, AAMI Park

Head-to-head: 19 games, Storm 19 wins, Wests Tigers 10 wins.

Matches at the venue: 3 games, Storm 2 wins, Tigers 1 win

Last five games: Storm 4 wins, Wests Tigers 1 win

2017 matches: Storm beat Wests Tigers 22-14 in round 4

2017 points per game: Storm 26.4; Wests Tigers 17.2

2017 points conceded per game: Storm 14; Wests Tigers 23.8

Televised: Fox League, NRL Live Pass