After enjoying the bye weekend, Wests Tigers return to the field this Sunday as they head to Melbourne and face off against a red-hot Storm side at AAMI Park.
Not since 2013 have Wests Tigers played Melbourne away from home, and history shows that the Storm have an exceptional record against the visitors in Melbourne, with Wests Tigers only winning once in 11 matches played since their foundation in 2000.
Despite the alarming record, Jason Taylor’s side will be buoyed by their last start efforts against South Sydney and come into the match with plenty of confidence as a result.
Wests Tigers will stick to the same formula that worked well against the Rabbitohs, with Dene Halatau starting at hooker and Robbie Farah coming off the bench. Jordan Rankin also returns on the wing after some impressive performances in the Intrust Super Premiership, while Sauaso Sue starts in the front row for Ava Seumanufagai (bench).
Melbourne have been in scintillating form throughout 2016 — winning 11 of 14 to sit in the top four at the halfway point of the season. Their last start defeat to the Dragons broke a seven-game winning streak (dating back to their Round 7 win over Wests Tigers), but it's important to note that Craig Bellamy's side were missing their entire spine for the match.
Cameron Smith (QLD Origin), Cooper Cronk (QLD Origin), Cameron Munster (injury) and Blake Green (injury) have all been named to return this week against Wests Tigers.
After six straight losses earlier in 2016, Wests Tigers have bounced back to win four of their last six and now sit just outside the top eight. A win against the 2015 finalists would no doubt be crucial in carrying on that momentum heading into the latter part of the year.
Date — Sunday, June 26, 2016
Time — 4:00pm AEST
Venue — AAMI Park, Melbourne
Social Media — #NRLStormTigers
On-Field Referees — Jared Maxwell and Adam Gee
Touch Judges — Brett Suttor and Rohan Best
Review Officials — Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea and Jason Robinson
TV, Live Stream and Radio Information
TV — Live via Channel 9, Fox Sports 1 (subscription required)
Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass (subscription required)
Radio — Triple M 104.9, AM 2GB 873, ABC 702 ABC (check local guides)
Team News and Confirmed Squads
For Wests Tigers, Jordan Rankin makes a return to the side replacing Josh Addo-Carr on the wing. Veteran utility Dene Halatau and Sauaso Sue will start with Robbie Farah and Ava Seumanufagai shifting back to the interchange bench. Both Farah and Aaron Woods return after a playing big minutes in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
For Melbourne, State of Origin representatives Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk have been named to back up for the clash, with Cameron Munster and Blake Green also expected to play after they were late withdrawals from their side's loss to the Dragons.
WESTS TIGERS — 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tim Simona 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Jordan Rankin 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Dene Halatau 10. Sauaso Sue 11. Josh Aloiai 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Elijah Taylor (Interchange: 14. Tim Grant 15. Ava Seumanufagai 16. Robbie Farah 17. Kyle Lovett 18. Michael Chee Kam) — Coach: Jason Taylor
MELBOURNE STORM — 1. Cameron Munster 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Cheyse Blair 4. Ryan Morgan 5. Marika Koroibete 6. Blake Green 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane (Interchange: 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Felise Kaufusi 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Ben Hampton 18. Matt White 21. Christian Welch 22. Young Tonumaipea) — Coach: Craig Bellamy
2016 Recent Results
R10 — Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 36 def. Wests Tigers 4
R11 — Wests Tigers 20 def. Newcastle Knights 12
R12 — Wests Tigers 19 def. Brisbane Broncos 18
R13 — Sydney Roosters 32 def. Wests Tigers 18
R14 — Wests Tigers 30 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 14
R10 — Melbourne Storm 15 def. North Queensland Cowboys 14
R11 — Melbourne Storm 18 def. Parramatta Eels 6
R13 — Melbourne Storm 24 def. Penrith Panthers 6
R14 — Melbourne Storm 46 def. Sydney Roosters 0
R15 — St George Illawarra Dragons 20 def. Melbourne Storm 10
Last Time They Met — Melbourne Storm 19 def. Wests Tigers 18 (Rd.7, 2016)
When these two sides met earlier in the year, it was a Golden Point thriller at Leichhardt Oval, with Cooper Cronk slotting home a field goal to give the Storm at 19-18 victory.
Melbourne crossed the line in the first minute of the game before Josh Addo-Carr scored the home side’s opening try on NRL debut. A further four pointer to Luke Brooks inside 20 minutes had Wests Tigers leading 12-4 at the break, before tries to Cooper Cronk, Suliasi Vunivalu and Marika Koroibete gave the Storm a commanding advantage.
Wests Tigers would fight their way back into the match a Kevin Naiqama try and late penalty goal from Jordan Rankin that forced the game into Golden Point at 18-all, before Cronk broke the hearts Leichhardt faithful with a field goal from 35 metres out to win it.
· Against the Storm — Played 27, Won 10, Lost 17, Drawn 0
· At AAMI Park — Played 2, Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 0
Player to Watch — Cameron Munster (Fullback, Melbourne Storm)
When Billy Slater was ruled out for the season, many believed Melbourne would struggle without the international fullback. However, Cameron Munster has filled the void with ease and is a serious threat to opposition sides when combining with class internationals Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Jesse Bromwich. After 15 rounds, the 21-year old sits second behind Bulldogs prop James Graham with the most runs in the competition, and third behind both Graham and Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo in metres gained.
In his most recent outing back in Round 14 against the Roosters, the Rockhampton junior made four line breaks that resulted in a try and three assists.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Munster has only made four errors all season — the best average by any fullback that has played over ten games in 2016.
The battle between Munster and in-form James Tedesco will be just one of many key match up highlights during the game, with Tedesco returning serve with ten tries of his own for 2016 and 69 tackle breaks to sit above Munster on the statistics list.
What They Said
“It's always a big challenge when you play Melbourne at home. I've never played there before but I'm looking forward to it and I'm sure the rest of the boys are too.” — Tim Simona
“It was lucky we won that game (in Round 7), we played some good footy and they’ve got some dangerous players in their side so if we don’t turn up we will get run over.” — Kevin Proctor
“It will be a big test for us — the biggest of the year so far. When we beat Brisbane up there, they had six Origin players out, but Melbourne will have their full strength team, so this will be a good test to see where we are at as a team.” — Elijah Taylor
Three Final Facts
1. Melbourne has won 10 of 11 games against Wests Tigers at home.
2. Elijah Taylor is averaging 46 tackles per game — highest of any player in clash.
3. Luke Brooks leads all players in the competition with 14 line-break assists this year.