NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V MANLY SEA EAGLES – 8.00PM (NZT)/6.00PM (AEST), FRIDAY, AUGUST 9 @ MT SMART STADIUM
The Storylines: Any goodwill directed the Warriors’ way after an improved six-week run of form – and sympathy following their referee-influenced loss to Parramatta – evaporated courtesy of a horrific 46-12 loss to Canberra last Friday.
With their season on the line, the Warriors failed to show up. Feeble defence underpinned a completely listless display from which only rookie half Chanel Harris-Tavita emerged with his reputation enhanced.
The Warriors also slumped to a record-equalling sixth straight loss at Mt Smart Stadium – and this week they host a red-hot Manly Sea Eagles outfit that has made a habit of winning in Auckland.
The Sea Eagles’ status has shifted from big improvers to genuine title contenders in recent weeks, winning six of their last seven games. A win here will likely see them finish Round 21 inside the top four.
Their stars – DCE, the Trbojevic brothers et al – are in brilliant form, but the Sea Eagles’ band of rookies, journeyman and unheralded role-players are also, to a man, playing out of their skins.
The Warriors, meanwhile, need to win all five of their remaining matches to have a chance of playing finals footy in 2019.
Compounding the difficult of that equation, arguably only Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo, Peta Hiku and now Harris-Tavita are performing anywhere near above-average NRL standard on a consistent basis.
Not even the optimists are still holding out hope of the Warriors still being alive in September. All fans want to see is some heart.
Ins and Outs: Kodi Nikorima and Karl Lawton were ruled out of this clash after suffering injuries against Canberra. That sees Chanel Harris-Tavita start at five-eighth, while Adam Keighran returns as the bench utility.
Ligi Sao and Sam Lisone also join the interchange, with last week’s debutant Josh Curran dropping out of the 17.
There has been speculation Blake Ayshford will drop out with injury, which would see Adam Pompey come into the backline.
The Sea Eagles have the luxury of naming an unchanged 17, with Api Koroisau making his return from a lengthy injury layoff last week against the Knights.
The History: Played 33 – Sea Eagles won 24, Warriors won 9
-The Warriors have won just two of their last 16 matches against Manly.
-The Sea Eagles have won 12 of their 15 games against the Warriors in Auckland since 1995.
-Six of the teams’ last seven encounters have produced 43-plus points.
-The Warriors have scored more than 22 points just once in their last 16 games against Manly.
-The Warriors are on a six-match losing streak at Mt Smart Stadium – an equal-club record.
-The Sea Eagles have won only eight of their last 20 games away from Brookvale Oval.
3 Key Match-ups
Blake Green v Daly Cherry-Evans: Green was a fabulous foil for Cherry-Evans in 2017 as Manly returned to the finals. But ‘Kakariki’ is struggling for the most part as the Warriors’ dominant half. Meanwhile, DCE is hovering around career-best form despite having a revolving cast of five-eighths alongside him in 2019. On recent showings, this is biggest mismatch on the park.
Agnatius Paasi v Martin Taupau: Paasi was an all-round beast against Parramatta but produced a no-show against the big Canberra pack. Manly’s engine-room is humming along arguably even better than the Green Machine’s, and the tackle-busting, offloading ability of Taupau shapes as a massive danger for the Warriors.
Adam Keighran v Manase Fainu: There will be plenty of interest in how Warriors target Api Koroisau performs at hooker for Manly, while having Jazz Tevaga in the No.9 is clogging up the Warriors’ offence. But interchange counterparts Keighran and outstanding find Fainu could have a bigger influence on the contest. Hopefully Kearney is willing to give Keighran at least half a game in the dummy-half role.
Last Time They Met: Manly chalked up their first win of the season in Round 3 in Christchurch, capitalising on an awful Warriors performance in a 46-12 result.
Home underdogs off conceding 40-plus 52-34 ATS since 2008. Home underdogs of 4 or more off conceding 40-plus are 38-16 ATS since 2008. Home underdogs of 4 or more off conceding 44-plus are 24-10 ATS since 2008. The Warriors have covered four straight at Mt Smart off conceding 30-plus. The Warriors have covered 9 of 10 after conceding 30-plus. The Warriors have failed to cover six straight at Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered just 2 of 8 as an underdog at Mt Smart. The Warriors are 8-17 ATS at Mt Smart at night. Manly have covered 11 of 15 away from Brookvale. Manly are 5-17 ATS as a favourite away from Brookvale. Manly are 3-7 ATS as a favourite away from Brookvale of 4 or more. Manly are 1-7 ATS as a favourite away from Brookvale off a win of 13-plus.
TAB’s Best Bet: Warriors +7.5 @ $1.90
The Verdict: On recent evidence – particularly at Mt Smart Stadium – the Warriors don’t have the class, firepower, resolve or attitude to match it with the NRL’s best teams. Last week’s effort was horrendous and the prospect of them turning it around with more or less the same line-up appears remote. Usually this sort of widespread external pessimism is a catalyst for a gutsy, backs-to-the-wall Warriors performance – like on Anzac Day against the Storm. But there’s no side in the NRL playing more compelling football than Manly – they are priming themselves for a premiership tilt and will be able to smell blood in the water. Sea Eagles by 14