Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors
Sydney Football Stadium, Fri 7:45pm.
Tigers: Tim Moltzen, Beau Ryan, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Lote Tuqiri, Benji Marshall, Rob Lui, Bryce Gibbs, Robbie Farah (c), Keith Galloway, Liam Fulton, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington. Interchange (from): Mitch Brown, Mark Flanagan, Matt Groat, Aaron Woods, Matt Utai, Ben Murdoch-Masila
Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Lewis Brown, Krisnan Inu, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (C), Micheal Luck. Interchange (from): Lance Hohaia, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Ukuma Ta’Ai, Elijah Taylor
AN HONEST ASSESSMENT would say that the Warriors could not have played any worse last week as hindsight seems to tell us that the big occasion of finals footy got the better of some players. Even players with finals experience such as seasoned veteran Manu Vatuvei, who was having his first game back from an injury, played a subpar game. It’s unlikely to happen again and the Tigers will be ready to be challenged.
The Tigers played well enough to beat the reigning premiers the Dragons last week but as the finals, and their winning streak of 9 games progress, the Tigers will need to play some top shelf footy. Whilst the positives outweigh the negatives, the Tigers have to make a few more tackles and finish some of their sets with solid kicks. I’d dare say that Coach Tim Sheens is more than aware of this as he has dropped Matt Utai from the team for missing a tonne of tackles last week. A big boost for the Wests Tigers is their young superstar Chris Lawrence who is back this week from injury and as he always does, will be playing out of his skin.
Despite the Warriors losing Shaun Berrigan to a hip injury they are quite spoilt for choice from the 1st man right down to the 17th man. Krisnan Inu takes Berrigan’s place and hopefully his sometimes lackadaisical attitude won’t rear its ugly head. Halfback Shaun Johnson may have been one player that let the hype of the big event get the better of him. It’s forgivable as he is very young and it was his first finals match, but it will be imperative that he play good footy if the Warriors are to stand a chance out there.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Robert Lui didn’t offer much in the way of relieving pressure from his halves partner Benji Marshall. We are all aware that Benji is capable of almost anything but he definitely plays a better game when Lui is firing on all cylinders, especially in the kicking department.
Robbie Farah will need to tighten up his defence based on last week’s effort and apply himself more in attack. Sure it would be tough for him to get his rhythm in sync with the likes of Lui and Marshall but he is first class dummy half and has to get it done.
Simon Mannering went down with an injury last week and although playing this week he won’t be 100%. As the team’s captain they need him now more than ever but if his injury gets the better of him, it may have a serious knock on effect throughout the team.
Kevin Locke also suffered an injury in the form of a head knock early in last week’s match that put him off his usual fast paced game. A good game from Locke can add so much speed and class to the Warriors backline, especially when defending long , and high kicks.
Head to Head: Tigers $1.34, Warriors $3.30
Line Betting: Tigers $1.91 (-8.5), Warriors $1.91 (+8.5)
I’m tipping the Tigers to make it 10 in a row but I can’t back them at these odds as they seem about spot on. But if you are keen to have a wager anyway, my best suggestion would be the Warriors with the 8.5 point start. That should keep the game interesting for those who don’t support either side. Good luck punters!
Mike’s Best Bet: None
Starting Bank: $2000, Current Bank $2627.69
(Team lists sourced from nrl.com.au)