NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS v MELBOURNE STORM – 7.30PM (NZT)/5.30PM (AEST), SATURDAY, JUNE 6 @ MOUNT SMART STADIUM
The Storylines: The Warriors found some solid form and belated continuity in the three weeks before the bye, but a dour 8-2 loss at home to Brisbane in Round 11 left them with a 4-7 record. Form is important, but the Warriors’ poor start to 2019 means they need to start banking wins. Now.
That won’t be easy against a top-of-the-table Melbourne outfit they have not beaten since 2015. But the Warriors’ gutsy, unlucky Anzac Day loss to the Storm – with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Blake Green sidelined – should boost confidence levels ahead of this home assignment.
Worryingly, though, the Warriors have lost three in a row at Mount Smart. They have won only nine of their last 21 at home and will be desperate to restore their home base’s fortress reputation.
The Storm are bearing a typically heavy State of Origin weight, with their four representatives all named to make the trip to Auckland after Wednesday’s series opener in Brisbane.
The perpetual benchmark, Melbourne has won it’s last three and boast a 9-2 record this season. And they’ve got Cameron Smith.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) June 6, 2019
Ins and Outs: The Warriors have made a couple of adjustments with Jazz Tevaga out injured and Ligi Sao copping a one-match ban in last weekend’s Canterbury Cup game.
Agnatius Paasi returns from suspension in the front-row, Adam Blair moves from prop to lock, Lachlan Burr slips back to the bench and Chris Satae joins the interchange.
Melbourne have named an unchanged 17 from their 28-6 win over Canterbury in Round 11. Origin reps Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr and Felise Kaufusi have all been named to start.
The History: Played 43 – Storm 25, Warriors 16, Draws 2
-The Storm are on a seven-match winning streak against the Storm – a record for the rivalry.
-Melbourne have won 12 of their last 14 regular-season games on the road.
-The Warriors have lost three straight at Mount Smart.
-The Warriors have scored 14 points or less in their last seven against the Storm.
-The Storm average just 16.6 points per game in their last nine at Mount Smart.
3 Key Match-ups
Kodi Nikorima v Cameron Munster: Three games deep into his Warriors tenure, Nikorima has been impressive so far – particularly his running game. It’s time for him to ease some of the kicking and playmaking load from an out-of-sorts Blake Green, however. Munster has been a frequent thorn in the Warriors’ side in recent seasons and was sensational again in Queensland’s game one victory. If he makes the trip, hopefully his impact will be blunted from a high-intensity Origin encounter 72 hours earlier.
I agree. The @NRLcom guys really did hit the nail on the head this time.
"I’m tipping an upset with Kodi Nikorima to get them home. Warriors by 8"
Post the whole article, why don't you! https://t.co/NtrXOCO6NS
— Anton Posa (@antonposa) June 4, 2019
Adam Blair v Dale Finucane: The maligned Blair’s work-rate was much better against Brisbane a fortnight ago. But it was against Melbourne on Anzac Day that he came under harsh scrutiny for making just one run (despite scoring a try and producing a titanic defensive effort). Dale Finucane is the antithesis to Blair’s modest output. The Storm No.13 cranks out huge numbers – and all of his work is quality. Should be at the front of the queue for a NSW call-up.
Patrick Herbert v Will Chambers: Herbert produced the greatest first-grade debut by a Warriors player ever on Anzac Day, with his incredible defensive display opposite the wily Chambers the standout feature. The rookie has shown flashes of his attacking class since, but he needs to get more involved and help unleash David Fusitu’a’s scoring potential. Chambers was excellent for the Maroons on Wednesday – giving archrival Latrell Mitchell an absolute bath – in an indication that he is a better right centre, rather than on the left where he has been stationed for the Storm in 2019.
Last Time They Met: The Warriors produced one of the bravest performances in the club’s history on Anzac Day 2019, despite going down 13-12 in a controversial encounter. The visitors – without key stars Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green and David Fusitu’a – defended heroically and looked set to pull off a famous boilover.
But a contentious penalty allowed the Storm to level the scores with only a few minutes remaining, before halfback Brodie Croft nailed the match-winning field goal. Centre Patrick Herbert came up with arguably the greatest debut in Warriors history.
Home underdogs of 4 or more off a bye are a poor 16-31 ATS. Home teams who scored single digits prior to a bye are an awful 13-28 ATS. The Warriors have covered just 1 of 6 off a bye. The Warriors have covered just 4 of their last 12 at Mt Smart. The Storm have covered just 6 of 17 interstate. The under is 29-18 when home underdogs of 4 or more are off a bye. The under is 25-15 when the Storm are interstate. The under is 22-14 when the Storm play interstate off conceding 14 or fewer. The under is 11-5 when the Storm play road day games. The under is 13-5 when the Storm have 10 or more days to prepare for a game.
TAB’s Best Bet: Under 38.5 @ $1.90
The Verdict: It’s always a daunting task taking on the Storm, but the Warriors are getting them at a good time – in Auckland, three days after Origin. Stopping the Storm slowing down the ruck, negating Smith’s influence (in general play and over the referee) and taking their opportunities should be the Warriors’ top priorities. Their defence has been much better lately – conceding just three tries in their last five halves of football but a more cohesive attacking performance will be required to topple the three-time grand finalists. Warriors by 4