The Warriors look to continue their impressive start to the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership, and will take on the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night at. The broncos suffered their third loss of the year against the Knights 15-10 in Newcastle and will want to get their season back on track. The Warriors come off a strong 22-12 win over the Cowboys at home, seeing them sit tied at the top of the ladder.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Mt Smart Stadium was graced with a double header, with the Tigers taking on the Storm which opened for the Warriors hosting the Cowboys. It took the Warriors just six minutes to score the first try of the game, with an intercept from Solomone Kata finished off by Ken Maumalo. The Warriors dominated possession for the majority of the game with 52 percent. They hit back again in the 29th minute with a great cutout ball from Shaun Johnson, setting up David Fusitua in the right corner. The Cowboys on the other hand looked flat early on, but managed to score on the stroke of half time through Lachlan Coote. The strong second half helped the Warriors cruise for the remainder, and their contused control helped put the game to bed. Shaun Johnson kicked two penalty goals, while the Cowboys ran in a try in the 60th minute through Ben Hampton, seeing the final core at 22-12. What stood out from the Warriors was their average set distance, sitting 5.5 metres above that of the Cowboys, and proving the dominance of their go forward. The Warriors remain tied for first on the ladder with the Dragons, while the Cowboys are languishing in the bottom eight with only one win so far in 2018.
The Broncos travelled to Newcastle to face the Knights, a team who they have had five straight wins against. The Knights controlled the early stages of the game with most of the possession, and looked to have scored through Shaun Kenny-Dowall but were pulled back because of a Kalyn Ponga forward pass. Brisbane then had two great opportunities in what was a quiet first half, but they failed to capitalise on both. The Knights later scored, finally, through Lachlan Fitzgibbon, breaking the deadlock after the 30th minute. A Mitchell Pearce field goal on the stroke of halftime gave the home side a 7-0 lead at the break. The second half was much of the same, and a Daniel Saifiti try in a low scoring affair looked to have secured the two points for the home side. But the Broncos began a comeback late on, after tries to Corey Oates and Anthony Milford trimmed the gap to five points. With less than four minutes left in the game, a Brisbane knock on ended any chance of a successful comeback, as the Knights come away 15-10 winners. The win outs the Knights back into the top eight, while the Broncos fall to 11th.
The Warriors have kept the same lineup that took down the Cowboys last.
A fractured neck to Matt Gillett and a corked thigh for Kodi Nikorima has both men sidelined for this week. Jack Bird will move into the halves partnering Anthony Milford, while Jaydyn Su’A starts in place of Gillett and Sam Tagataese comes onto the bench.
The Warriors have had a season like no other so far, with a franchise-best five from five and a team that features as much talent as they have ever had. The addition of Blake Green finally gives Shaun Johnson a reliable partner in the halves who is likely to stay at the Warriors for longer than a year, and Tohu Harris and Adam Blair coming in gives the side plenty of representative experience.
The Broncos have fallen to the same 2-3 record after five rounds as 2017, but 2018 feels a little bit different. There are a few injuries to key players to deal with, the halves combination is still struggling to take shape and the depth of the team is not as good as last year. A win in New Zealand can be the perfect way to rejuvenate the side, but a very tough one at that.
The last time these two sides met was in round 12 in 2017, with a 28-10 victory for the Warriors at home.
The fullbacks, also the captains for both sides, have been pivotal in guaranteeing their sides strong results in the recent past. Both will have to be on top form to give their team a shot at winning, creating a juicy battle in the backfield.
Ever since taking the role of Captain for the Warriors Tuivasa-Sheck has been criticised for failing to elevate his team higher. Whether he is to blame or the culture of the club, the turnaround this year has made him look as good as ever and there is no indication he will slow down. Tuivasa-Sehck’s great work joining the backline on attack is one of his fortes, and has made him one of the game’s best ball runners for year now.
Darius Boyd has become a consistently strong player for the Broncos since returning with Wayne Bennett to the team in 2015. His ball playing abilities and experience in the game have kept the Broncos as a competition heavyweight. In a year that seems to be below par for the men from Redhill, Boyd’s ability to galvanise his troops will be extremely vital, as well as his own form picking up.
Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck said he puts the success of the team down to the newcomers, who have added a lot of experience to this year’s team. He also said that he wants the Warriors to build on their form rather than getting carried away.
Andrew McCullough is hopeful that his side can get an important win in New Zealand, and added “there’s a few things we need to fix up” in the forwards.
The Broncos have only won three of the past ten matches at Mt Smart Stadium. However this is their frost appearance outside of the Origin period at the ground since 2014.
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusitua, 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 Leivaha Pulu, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Adam Blair. Interchange: 14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Simon Mannering, 17 Anthony Gelling. Reserves: 18 Mason Lino, 20 Chris Satae, 21 Isaiah Papali’I, 22 Sam Cook.
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 18 Tom Opacic, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 4 Jack Bird, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Tevita Pangai Jnr, 11 Alex Glenn, 17 Jaydn Su’A, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14 Sam Thaiday, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 20 Sam Tagataese. Reserves: 19 Troy Dargan, 21 Payne Haas.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 14th April 2018
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kickoff: 5:00pm NZST (3:00pm AEDT)
Match Officials: Adam Gee, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski (assistant)
WHO WILL WIN
Even ignoring the form of both sides at the moment, the likelihood of Brisbane winning in New Zealand in general is slim. The Warriors’ performances will begin to raise eye brows over whether they can go all the way, and they will tumble when that happens – nut that is not for a while. For now, without Matt Gillett and calling upon young guys to carry the load, the Broncos will struggle more than ever in this one to stay competitive. Warriors by 10.