WESTS TIGERS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 8.10PM (NZT)/6.10PM (AEDT) @ CAMPBELLTOWN STADIUM, SYDNEY
The Storylines: The Warriors were the most emphatic winners of Round 1, obliterating an awful Bulldogs outfit 40-6 at Mt Smart in the club’s biggest-ever season-opening victory. But can they back it up against a far more formidable Wests Tigers side at the unwelcoming Campbelltown Stadium?
The Tigers cruised to a 20-6 win over Manly on the back of a Robbie Farah double, after trailing 2-0 at halftime. Their try-line was only breached in the dying seconds as Michael Maguire’s Tigers look to replicate the stingy defensive reputation the club earned in 2018.
The Warriors answered most of the critics’ (TWL included) curly off-season questions last Saturday: They scored plenty of points; Adam Keighran enjoyed a charmed debut at five-eighth; Blake Green took the halfback reins with aplomb; Solomone Kata’s right-side switch bore immediate fruit; and their pack was collectively dominant.
But each of those aspects of the Warriors’ game will be tested considerably more strenuously by the Tigers this Sunday evening.
Ins and Outs: The Warriors have named an unchanged starting line-up, but Isaiah Papali’i – stood down from Round 1 – is on the bench in Blake Ayshford’s place.
The big unknown is whether Issac Luke, who was named in the No.18 jersey, returns – and who would make way for him.
The Tigers are set to take the same 17 into Round 2, though injured captain Moses Mbye is a chance of returning at fullback. Josh Reynolds remains on the outer.
The History: Played 29 – Tigers won 15, Warriors 14
-The Tigers have won four of their last five against the Warriors.
-Nine of the last 12 encounters between the clubs featured 1-12 margins, but none of the last eight were decided by less than eight points.
-The Tigers have won their last three against the Warriors at Campbelltown, averaging 44.67 points scored.
-The Tigers have lost seven of their last eight at Campbelltown against all opponents.
-The Warriors are on a three-match losing streak at Sydney venues.
3 Key Match-ups
Blake Green v Luke Brooks: The dominant half at a club for the first time in his NRL career, Green revelled in the No.7 jumper last week and picked up the three Dally M points. Luke Brooks, coming off a career-best 2018 campaign, possesses what the Warriors’ lack in the halves (and did not get thrown out them by the Bulldogs last week) – speed. Different styles, great match-up.
— NRL (@NRL) March 16, 2019
Peta Hiku v Esan Marsters: Hiku picked up a try in a solid enough performance in his new spot on the left edge, but he’s got a far tougher assignment this week up against 2018 Kiwis debutant Marsters. The tyro racked up 148 metres against the Sea Eagles and should be a constant handful for the defensively suspect Hiku.
Tohu Harris v Ryan Matterson: Two creative, hardworking all-rounders in the second-row who had outstanding games last week. Matterson racked up 159 metres and 35 tackles against Manly, while Harris chewed up 164 metres and 28 tackles in the Warriors’ big win.
Last Time They Met: The Warriors carved out an emphatic 26-4 win over the visiting Tigers in Round 9 of 2018, with Shaun Johnson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck dominant. Former Gold Coast utility Karl Lawton scored two late tries off the bench on club debut to seal the result.
Small interstate underdogs are 67-35 against the spread over the last five seasons. Small interstate underdogs are 12-6 against the spread in the first two rounds of the season since 2008. The Tigers are 9-19 ATS as a favourite over the last four seasons. The under is 18-10 when the Tigers are favoured. The Tigers are 2-8 ATS when favoured off a win. The Tigers are 4-11 ATS when favoured in day games. The Tigers are 20-29 ATS in day twilight games. The Tigers have covered just 4 of 15 at Campbelltown. The Warriors have covered 8 of 13 away from Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered 6 of 8 as an underdog away from Mt Smart. Interstate underdogs who score 30-plus cover at 59%
TAB’s Best Bet: Warriors +1.5 @ $1.90
$10 on this week's @radiosportnz Rambler Multi could return you $114.10.
— TAB Sport (@TAB_Sport) March 19, 2019
The Verdict: Gear up for a real arm-wrestle out at Campbelltown. The Warriors will get more thrown at them in attack and face tenfold resistance defensively than they encountered last week, and the Tigers – narrow favourites – will fancy their chances of going 2-0. But expect the Warriors’ conditioning, their relentless front-row rotation and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s influence to prove the difference in a nail-biter. Warriors by 4