TWL RD 23 PREVIEW: WARRIORS V BULLDOGS

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 2.00PM (AEST)/4.00PM (AEST) SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 AT ANZ STADIUM, SYDNEY

The Storylines: If the Warriors’ return to the NRL finals isn’t yet sealed, a win over the 14th-placed Bulldogs would certainly do the trick.

They have carved out impressive back-to-back wins over St George Illawarra and Newcastle since their Gold Coast debacle in Round 20 and are aiming for three straight victories for the first time since Round 5 to stay alive in the top-four hunt.

The Warriors’ performances over the past fortnight have been built on stoic defence, but they have clicked with the ball only in patches since their blistering win over the Broncos in Round 18 – they have crossed for just nine tries in four games since. There’s not much more the team could ask their outstanding back-three for, so the onus lies on Shaun Johnson to find his freewheeling best and the likes of Solomone Kata and Gerard Beale to provide more crisp attacking play.

The 17 is unchanged despite a concern over Leivaha Pulu, while Tohu Harris is still a week or two away from returning.

The 6-14 Bulldogs are coming off an insipid 18-6 loss to Manly in Round 22, but they showed how dangerous they can be with convincing upsets of finals hopefuls the Tigers and Broncos in their previous two outings. Rookie five-eighth Lachlan Lewis, who missed the Sea Eagles defeat, is a big in for the blue-and-whites, who are locked in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

The Warriors have lost just once to a bottom-eight team in 2018 are aiming to build on their outstanding record on the road, as well as chalk up back-to-back wins at ANZ Stadium for the first time since 2008.

The History: Played 36 – Bulldogs won 20, Warriors won 14, draws 2.

The Stats

-The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight against the Warriors, but the Warriors have won two of the last three.
-The Bulldogs boast a 4-1-2 record against the Warriors at ANZ Stadium
-The last seven encounters were decided by 1-12 margins, including four by four points or less.
-Neither team has managed more than 26 points in the last seven showdowns, with five of those games producing totals of 41 points or less.
-The Morris twins, Brett (11 games) and Josh (13 games), have both scored seven career tries against the Warriors.
-Shaun Johnson has scored a career-low one try in eight appearances against Canterbury.

3 Key Match-ups 

Blake Green v Lachlan Lewis: Green continues to play the steady puppeteer role for the Warriors but last week unleashed his running game to score a fine solo try. Lewis has been one of the finds of the season and was sorely missed against Manly after spearheading Canterbury’s upsets of Wests Tigers and Brisbane.

Agnatius Paasi v David Klemmer: Paasi has been solid rather than spectacular since his career-best performance against the Broncos, and an authoritative performance from the Warriors’ top prop would be handy against a Bulldogs pack that can be difficult to get over if given an early sniff. Klemmer is the Dogs’ spiritual leader and will relish the challenge the Warriors’ engine-room presents.

David Fusitu’a v Brett Morris: Brand-new contract extension in his back pocket, Fusitu’a ended a five-game tryscoring drought by steamrolling Kalyn Ponga to dot down last Friday. Morris is unquestionably in the twilight of his career but he’s still a wily customer and there’s few wingers you’d rather have marking up on one of the NRL’s most dangerous finishers.

Last Time They Met: The Warriors scratched out a 21-14 win at Mount Smart Stadium last season before losing their nine remaining games to finish six points adrift of the 11th-placed Bulldogs.

The Punt: NZ TAB Odds – Head to Head: Bulldogs $2.52, Warriors $1.52 (Line: Bulldogs +4.5)

The Bulldogs are 10-6 against the line when an underdog of 4.5 or more at ANZ. The Bulldogs have covered 11 of 18 day games at ANZ. The Bulldogs have covered 9 of 14 at ANZ off a double digit loss. The Warriors have covered just 22 of 50 away from Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered just 1 of 4 as a favourite of 4.5 or more away from Mt Smart. The under is 16-9 when the Bulldogs are an underdog at ANZ. The under is 10-6 when the Bulldogs are an underdog of 4.5+ at ANZ.

FULL TAB PREVIEW  | TAB PUNTERS LOUNGE – NRL

TWL’s Tips – Warriors -4.5 @ $1.87
Warriors 13 & Over @ $2.90
-Warriors/Warriors @ $1.80
Shaun Johnson To Score 2 Or More Tries @ $13

LISTEN: TAB NRL PODCAST – THE ADVANTAGE LINE

The Verdict: This has banana-skin game written all over it for the Warriors, but their capitulation to the Titans aside, they have won pretty much every game they’ve been expected to in 2018. The Bulldogs never stop trying – just two of their last 11 losses were by more than eight points – but their spine is arguably the NRL’s worst and it’s a real mismatch up against the Warriors’ blue-chip quartet. If the visitors play anywhere near their potential they will win comfortably – and they’ll be eyeing this assignment off as the perfect springboard for their run into September. Warriors by 16

Around the grounds

THURSDAY

Broncos v Rabbitohs: The Broncos have been mired in Wayne Bennett-related drama all week and are in real danger of missing the finals if they can’t pull off an upset here. The Bunnies are favoured to reach the grand final but have a high attrition rate at present. Then there’s the ‘Seibold to Broncos’ rumours. A mouth-watering clash for so many reasons. Tip: Rabbitohs 12 & Under @ $3.15

FRIDAY

Sea Eagles v Titans: A match-up of zero consequence to Warriors fans unless you’ve got a wooden spoon bet on. Tip: Titans +6.5 @ $1.87

Storm v Eels: Back-to-back losses in heavyweight clashes with the Rabbitohs and Sharks have dented the Storm’s minor premiership aspirations. An upset defeat to the suddenly in-form Eels could threaten their top-four status. A Parra win could potentially be huge for the Warriors. Tip: Eels win @ $4.00

SATURDAY

Panthers v Knights: The Panthers have staged three straight mind-blowing escape acts, the most recent against the Titans after a tumultuous week in which their coach was sacked. The Knights are liming towards the end of the season but could do the Warriors a massive solid here with a boilover win. Tip: Knights +10.5 @ $1.87

Tigers v Dragons: An season-defining match for both teams. The fifth-placed Dragons are slumping hard while the ninth-placed Tigers could find themselves in the eight by the end of the weekend. There’s positives for the Warriors in either result, but given we’re confident the Warriors will account for the Bulldogs we’ll be cheering on the Tigers here. Tip: Tigers 13 & Over @ $4.00

Sharks v Cowboys: The lowly Cowboys pulled off an amazing comeback win over the Broncos – benefitting the Warriors big-time – and will be one of our surrogate favourite teams again this weekend as they travel to take on the pesky sixth-placed Sharks, who dealt to the Storm away last week. Tip: Cowboys +8.5 @ $1.87

SUNDAY

Raiders v Roosters: If you know a Raiders fan, give them a hug. What a gut-wrenching campaign it’s been for the Green Machine faithful. The Roosters have firmed for the minor premiership and as title favourites after a high-stakes win over Souths and it’s hard to see them dropping this one. Tip: Roosters 13 & Over @ $2.50

 

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