Warriors v Wests Tigers: Johnson returns; Elijah to start
Author NRL.com Timestamp Tue 1 May 2018, 04:05 PM
They were probably the most talked-about teams over the first six rounds of the Telstra Premiership but now we get to find out what the Warriors and Wests Tigers are really made of.
The Warriors were humbled by reigning premiers Melbourne on Anzac Day and need to prove the 50-10 rout was an aberration rather than a sign of things to come over the final two-thirds of the season.
Coach Stephen Kearney has a big headache trying to replace experienced hooker Issac Luke after he suffered a knee injury last week.
The Tigers have also copped a reality check in the form of back-to-back losses to Newcastle and Parramatta.
Both teams will understand the significance of this game in relation to their respective goals this season and it’ll be interesting to see who comes up trumps.
New Zealand Warriors v Wests Tigers, 5.30pm Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium
Key match-up: One is more conservative and doesn’t take many risks, the other is known for his no-look passes and playing off the cuff, which is why the battle between five-eighths Blake Green and Benji Marshall looms as such a compelling duel. Despite their obvious differences, they both have a strong kicking game and will be looking for any extra edge for their teams that they can get.
For the Warriors to win: It remains to be seen how they cope with the loss of experienced hooker Issac Luke after he was injured in last week’s thrashing. Of equal importance is their mindset after being so heavily beaten. Will the Warriors be spooked and revert to their old losing habits?
For the Tigers to win: Despite two straight losses to Newcastle and Parramatta, the Tigers have to stay confident. They boast a winning record and have been in every single contest so there’s no reason for them to adjust in terms of attitude or game plan.
Warriors stat attack: The Warriors have lost their past four clashes with the Tigers, though they are 3-1 at home this season, with winger David Fusitu’a scoring five tries in those four home games.
Tigers stat attack: Six of the Tigers’ eight games have been decided by two points or less. They have a 5-3 record, losing all three games by exactly two points.
And another thing: Ivan Cleary will probably have some catching up to do with old friends across the Tasman. The Tigers coach played with the Warriors for three seasons and coached the club for six seasons before returning to Australia in 2012.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck , 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 8 Bunty Afoa, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Simon Mannering, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Adam Blair
Interchange: 14 Karl Lawton, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Isaiah Papalii, 20 James Gavet
Reserves: 18 Anthony Gelling, 20 Mason Lino, 21 Albert Vete, 22 Sam Cook
The Warriors have named three injured stars to return with Tohu Harris (concussion) in the back row, Shaun Johnson (groin) at halfback and Solomone Kata (ankle) at centre.
Isaiah Papali’i drops to the bench with Mason Lino and Anthony Gelling to the reserves. Hooker Karl Lawton has been named on the bench for his club debut with Jazz Tevaga (shoulder) ruled out.
James Gavet also makes a comeback on the bench with Albert Vete and Joseph Vuna out. Hooker Issac Luke has been named despite looking to suffer a potentially serious knee injury last week. Sam Cook is also in the reserves as cover.
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Mahe Fonua, 6 Benji Marshall , 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Matthew Eisenhuth, 9 Pita Godinet, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Elijah Taylor
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Josh Aloiai, 16 Michael Chee-Kam, 17 Sauaso Sue
Reserves: 18 Tim Grant, 19 Matt McIlwrick, 20 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 21 Tyson Gamble
Elijah Taylor (concussion) returns at lock, pushing Matt Eisenhuth to prop and Sauaso Sue to the bench. Alex Twal also returns to the 17 on the bench.
Tim Grant drops to 18th man and Jacob Liddle is out of the 21 altogether, leaving Pita Godinet as the sole dummy half in the 17.
Rookie playmaker Tyson Gamble is in the reserves in jersey 21.
Head-to-head: Played 28; Wests Tigers 15 wins, Warriors 13 wins
Matches at venue: Played 11; Warriors 6 wins, Wests Tigers 5 wins
2017 result: Wests Tigers won 28-16 at Leichhardt Oval in round 26
Points per game: Warriors 21.5; Wests Tigers 18.5
Points conceded per game: Warriors 19.3; Wests Tigers 14.1
Televised: Live on Fox League
Steve Turner’s prediction: The Warriors were blown off the park by an outstanding Melbourne Storm outfit and will turn things around this week back at home off a 10-day turnaround. The Wests Tigers have lost their last two and while they have been a surprise packet in 2018, their ability to close games out over the past fortnight has let them down and with shorter preparation than the home side, the task in New Zealand will be too big. TIP: Warriors by 8