Melbourne host Manly at AAMI Stadium on Saturday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
While Melbourne haven’t reached the heights of 2017 (they only lost four games last season, but they’ve already lost four in 2018), they’re still in the top four (equal third with Souths). Melbourne rebounded from the St. George-Illawarra loss with a 28-14 win over Gold Coast at Lang Park last Saturday night. It was 16-14 with 15 minutes left, before Cameron Munster and ‘The Fox’ Josh Addo-Carr sealed victory.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
After a horror month, Manly won their first game since Easter Saturday night, beating Brisbane 38-24 in the second game of the Lang Park double header. Jake Trbojevic and Joel Thompson scored doubles for Manly.
A big out for Melbourne, Cameron Smith suspended. Brandon Smith replaces him. Jahrome Hughes joins the bench.
MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
Trent Hodkinson – a mid-season buy from Cronulla – debuts for Manly from the bench. Toafofoa Sipley replaces an injured Taniela Paseka on the bench. Hodkinson played for Cronulla when they beat Melbourne 14-4 on Good Friday night.
Melbourne beat Manly twice in 2017: one close game and one belting. Melbourne won 30-26 in round seven at Brookvale Oval. Melbourne lead 18-0 after 20 minutes and 30-16 at halftime (doubles to Suliasi Vunivalu and Felise Kaufusi), before surviving a late Manly comeback. They met again in round 21 at AAMI Park, scoring seven tries to one (Jahrome Hughes, Vunivalu, Joe Stimson, Kenneath Bromwich, Will Chambers, Cooper Cronk, Addo-Carr) to win 40-6.
The big battle: how will Melbourne adjust to Cameron Smith’s absence. His replacement Brandon Smith played 10 games in 2017. Brandon played in Melbourne’s World Club Challenge win against Leeds in February.
Melbourne lead the head-to-head count (since 1998) with 18 wins, 13 losses and one draw.
SQUADS (optional paragraph)
Melbourne Storm: 1 Billy Slater (c), 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ryley Jacks, 8 Christian Welch, 9 Brandon Smith, 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Tim Glasby, 15 Kenny Bromwich, 16 Joe Stimson, 17 Jahrome Hughes
Reserves: 18 Patrick Kaufusi, 19 Brodie Croft, 20 Harry Grant, 21 Justin Olam
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Moses Suli, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Dylan Walker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Apisai Koroisau, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Shaun Lane, 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14 Trent Hodkinson, 15 Frank Winterstein, 16 Lloyd Perrett, 17 Toafofoa Sipley
Reserves: 18 Tom Wright, 19 Lewis Brown, 20 Jorge Taufua, 21 Tevita Funa
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday May 19.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne.
WHO WILL WIN?
Melbourne – with a 4-1 home record – should be too strong for Manly on Saturday night, even without Cameron Smith. Manly’s Lang Park win doesn’t mask their four-game losing streak and off-field turmoil.
Mebourne by 20.
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