NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V BRISBANE BRONCOS – 5.00PM (NZT)/7.00PM (AEST) SATURDAY, APRIL 14 @ MOUNT SMART STADIUM
The Storyline: The Warriors’ unbelievable, unprecedented start to season 2018 continues, moving to 5-0 after living up to the sold-out double-header occasion with a gritty 22-12 win over North Queensland.
It was another step in the Warriors’ evolution, racing out to an early lead and weathering a Cowboys comeback with consummate ease. They made more errors and gave away more penalties than is ideal, but the Warriors never looked like bottling their advantage.
There is no team fitter, more consistent or more relentless in the NRL at present – an extraordinary turnaround after the previous six torturous seasons.
But with success comes heightened expectations – and the Warriors start warm favourites against an embattled Brisbane outfit, who have won just two (and two lucky wins at that) of their five games.
Their spine is out of form and disjointed; they have injury and confidence problems across the board; and the Nathan Brown-Wayne Bennett feud has dragged the Broncos across the back pages for less than desirable reasons once again.
The Warriors are unchanged, while the Broncos get Alex Glenn back but may have to pitch rusty recruit Jack Bird into the halves with Kodi Nikorima under an injury cloud.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 10, 2018
The History: Played 39 – Broncos won 22, Warriors won 17.
-The Warriors have won six of their last seven games against the Broncos at Mount Smart.
-The last three encounters between the clubs have been decided by 15 points or more; the previous four were decided by nine points or less.
-The Warriors are aiming for their sixth straight win for the first time since 2002.
-The Broncos have won just one of their last five away games.
3 Key Match-ups
Blake Green v Anthony Milford: Different styles, equal importance. Blake Green has been the steady hand credited with the Warriors’ newfound composure with the ball in hand – and a potential NSW Origin bolter. Anthony Milford was Queensland’s No.6 for last year’s series opener but is miles off that status right now. He showed glimpses of his effervescent best in Newcastle last week but sullied his breaks with errors.
Solomone Kata v James Roberts: After an indifferent 2017, Solomone Kata has enjoyed a sensational start to the year on the Warriors’ left edge. He has scored three tries, set up Ken Maumalo brilliantly last week and has been more involved week by week. James Roberts hasn’t found the same consistency but is the Broncos’ most dangerous weapon, making four line-breaks this season. He scored two tries at Mount Smart last year in a big loss and his spark is badly needed by the misfiring Broncos.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck v Darius Boyd: The clash of the skippers and custodians. But their seasons are on a very different trajectory. RTS is at the pointy end of the Dally M leaderboard, while Boyd is struggling for form and is now odds-on to be dropped from the Queensland Origin team. Any Broncos turnaround has to include a reversal from Boyd.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) April 10, 2018
Last Time They Met: The Warriors whipped an Origin-depleted Broncos side 28-10 in Round 12 last year, with Shaun Johnson taking the three Dally M points.
Why We’ll Win: Quite simply, the Warriors are playing better footy than the Broncos in virtually every department. The Warriors are focused, relentless, disciplined, consistent and confident – all antonyms for the Broncos’ start to 2018. There should be another bumper crowd at Mount Smart, and with the Warriors on fire from 1-17 and hell-bent on avoiding complacency, they’ll be tough to beat.
Why We’ll Lose: The Broncos – and supercoach Wayne Bennett – are under fire and in dire need of a win, which makes them a dangerous guest. The two points on offer represent a greater reward at this point for Brisbane, so the Warriors need to find a way to counter that desperation. If it all suddenly clicks for the Broncos’ blue-chip contingent, the Warriors will put under unfamiliar pressure.
— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) April 11, 2018
The Warriors have covered 4 of their last 5 as a favourite at Mt Smart. The Warriors are 7-0 against the line at Mt Smart after winning three straight. The Warriors have covered just 2 of their last 11 as a favourite of 4 or more at Mt Smart. Brisbane have covered 11 of their last 17 as a road underdog. Brisbane are 11-4 against the line off a loss when on the road. FULL NZ TAB PREVIEW
Tips – Warriors 13 & Over @ $2.80
-Warriors/Warriors @ $1.80
-Over 35.5 Points @ $1.87
-First Try Scorer – Peta Hiku @ $15
-Warriors by 21-30 @ $7.50
Um guys, the Warriors are 5-0…. pic.twitter.com/IKmmDqAY8L
— TAB Sport (@TAB_Sport) April 7, 2018
The Verdict: The only factor nagging away at the inclination to predict a landslide Warriors win is the notion that their hot run has to come to an end at some stage, and to a lesser extent that the Broncos eventually have to come good. But on all the evidence provided so far, the Warriors are a couple of classes above the Broncos and a heaving Mount Smart throng should only exacerbate both teams’ current form-lines. To hell with it, Warriors by 24.