Warriors v Wests Tigers: Cleary re-shuffles pack; Mannering to bench
They were probably the most talked-about teams over the first six rounds of the Telstra Premiership but now we get to find out what the Warriors and Wests Tigers are really made of.
The Warriors were humbled by reigning premiers Melbourne on Anzac Day and need to prove the 50-10 rout was an aberration rather than a sign of things to come over the final two-thirds of the season.
Coach Stephen Kearney has a big headache trying to replace experienced hooker Issac Luke after he suffered a knee injury last week.
The Tigers have also copped a reality check in the form of back-to-back losses to Newcastle and Parramatta.
Both teams will understand the significance of this game in relation to their respective goals this season and it'll be interesting to see who comes up trumps.
Match: Warriors vs Wests Tigers
Round 9 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers, 5.30pm Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium
Key match-up: One is more conservative and doesn't take many risks, the other is known for his no-look passes and playing off the cuff, which is why the battle between five-eighths Blake Green and Benji Marshall looms as such a compelling duel. Despite their obvious differences, they both have a strong kicking game and will be looking for any extra edge for their teams that they can get.
For the Warriors to win: It remains to be seen how they cope with the loss of experienced hooker Issac Luke after he was injured in last week's thrashing. Of equal importance is their mindset after being so heavily beaten. Will the Warriors be spooked and revert to their old losing habits?
For the Tigers to win: Despite two straight losses to Newcastle and Parramatta, the Tigers have to stay confident. They boast a winning record and have been in every single contest so there's no reason for them to adjust in terms of attitude or game plan.
Warriors stat attack: The Warriors have lost their past four clashes with the Tigers, though they are 3-1 at home this season, with winger David Fusitu'a scoring five tries in those four home games.
Tigers stat attack: Six of the Tigers' eight games have been decided by two points or less. They have a 5-3 record, losing all three games by exactly two points.
And another thing: Ivan Cleary will probably have some catching up to do with old friends across the Tasman. The Tigers coach played with the Warriors for three seasons and coached the club for six seasons before returning to Australia in 2012.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusitu'a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Bunty Afoa, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 16 Isaiah Papali'i, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Adam Blair
Interchange: 11 Simon Mannering, 14 Karl Lawton, 15 Sam Lisone, 17 James Gavet
The Warriors are 1-17, although coach Stephen Kearney has opted to start Isaiah Papali'i and moved Simon Mannering to the bench. Mason Lion and Albert Vete were omitted an hour before kick-off, while Anthony Gelling and Sam Cook were trimmed from the squad on Friday night.
Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Mahe Fonua, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 17 Sauaso Sue, 13 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 8 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 9 Pita Godinet, 14 Alex Twal, 16 Michael Chee-Kam, 18 Tim Grant
Coach Ivan Cleary has shuffled the deck, moving Sauaso Sue into the starting line-up and shifting Matt Eisenhuth from prop to lock. Elijah Taylor will start at hooker, with Peta Godinet dropping back to the bench. Tim Grant has been promoted to the bench, while Josh Aloiai and Malaki Watene-Zelezniak were omitted an hour before kick-off. Tyson Gamble and Matt McIlwrick were cut from the squad on Friday night.
Head-to-head: Played 28; Wests Tigers 15 wins, Warriors 13 wins
Matches at venue: Played 11; Warriors 6 wins, Wests Tigers 5 wins
2017 result: Wests Tigers won 28-16 at Leichhardt Oval in round 26
Points per game: Warriors 21.5; Wests Tigers 18.5
Points conceded per game: Warriors 19.3; Wests Tigers 14.1
Televised: Live on Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: The Warriors were blown off the park by an outstanding Melbourne Storm outfit and will turn things around this week back at home off a 10-day turnaround. The Wests Tigers have lost their last two and while they have been a surprise packet in 2018, their ability to close games out over the past fortnight has let them down and with shorter preparation than the home side, the task in New Zealand will be too big. TIP: Warriors by 8