Schick Hydro preview: Melbourne Storm v Wests Tigers
A Cooper Cronk field goal in the 85th minute saw the Storm snatch a 19-18 golden point victory over the Tigers the last time these teams met back in Round 7.
The result was the first of the Storm’s seven-game winning streak that was only ended last week by the Dragons, with the Victorians now cemented inside the top four, two wins clear of fifth position.
It’s not all positive for Melbourne however as Cameron Munster and Blake Green are both in doubt for this Sunday’s game, with the pair sitting out last weekend’s loss due to injury.
The Tigers were trounced by the Raiders 60-6 in the week following the Storm clash but have since found some form, winning three of their past four.
Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah have all been named to back up from Origin duty, although Farah is set to come off the bench on Sunday.
Watch out Storm: James Tedesco started the season as one of the best fullbacks in the league, and is one of only eight players to have scored 10 or more tries this season. Tedesco’s direct opponent, Cameron Munster, was a late withdrawal from last Saturday’s loss to the Dragons, and the young Storm star is still doubtful to return on Sunday. While Munster has been named the Storm are still unsure as to Munster’s availability, so look for Tedesco to lead a backline charge against an undermanned Storm defence.
Watch out Tigers: In last week’s loss to the Dragons, the Storm did something they hadn’t done all season: concede 20 points in a single match. Even so, Melbourne remain the best defensive team in the competition which doesn’t bode well for the Tigers, who rank 15th in points against. If the Storm are able to tick the scoreboard over the 20-point mark, their defence should do enough to hold the Tigers at bay.
Key match-up: Cooper Cronk v Luke Brooks. Providing Cooper Cronk makes it through Origin unscathed and backs up against the Tigers on Sunday, he’ll have another handful to deal with in the shape of Luke Brooks. Brooks has had quite an impressive season to date with ball in head, leading the league in line-break assists with 14. The halfback also currently sits equal second in try assists with 13, and is one of only five players to have recorded multiple 40/20 kicks this season. This key match-up also extends to each player’s halves partner, with Cronk’s partner in crime Blake Green under an injury cloud following a couple of weeks on the sideline with a calf injury. If Cronk and Green aren’t fit and firing on Sunday look for the Wests pairing of Brooks and Mitchell Moses to take control of the game.
The history: Played 27; Storm 17, Tigers 10. Melbourne have just shaded the Tigers in recent years when it comes to head-to-head record, with the Storm winning three of their last five encounters. These two sides have already met once this season in Round 7, as Cooper Cronk’s field goal was the difference in a 19-18 golden point win for the Storm.
What are the odds: Melbourne are the favourites but there has been almost as much money invested on Wests Tigers due to the huge price Sportsbet put up at the start of the week. The Tigers have been firmers and they’ve been overwhelmingly popular at the line, where they’re receiving a handy start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Adam Gee. Touch Judges: Brett Suttor, Rohan Best. Review Officials: Ben Galea, Jason Robinson. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 4pm (AEST)
How we see it: It’s never an easy game after Origin and both sides will have players backing up from Wednesday night’s main event. If Smith and Cronk can make it through Origin without an injury it’s quite likely they’ll take the field against the Tigers on Sunday, which should be enough to get the home side over the line. Storm by 10.