Crownbet Match Preview: Round 2

Fresh off their odds-defying victory over the Sydney Roosters in Round 1, a fired-up Wests Tigers will travel to Melbourne this weekend to take on the Storm. 

Having lost their last 11 matches against the boys from Bondi before last Saturday’s clash, it was a truly remarkable result for Ivan Cleary’s side as they came from behind in the final minute to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat — something that will certainly give the side plenty of confidence going forward.

However, as special as the result was for Wests Tigers, the season is only just beginning and the games don’t get any easier with a Storm showdown next up on the calendar. 

Wests Tigers have won just once in Melbourne since the club’s foundation in 2000, and they’ll certainly face a tough test again this weekend as the Storm return home for the first time in 2018. Despite playing without Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, it was as clinical as ever from Melbourne last weekend as they blew past the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Perth and they’ll be looking to do the same this weekend.

The return of Slater is certainly a big boost for the Storm, with the champion fullback set to play his 300th career game in what will surely be a vocal AAMI Park crowd.

Slater’s record in his milestone matches is well documented (as we’ll get to soon), and it’ll be fascinating to see how he slots back in to the team in a new-look spine for the hosts.

Incredibly, Saturday’s game between Melbourne and Wests Tigers is just one of two fixtures between two unbeaten sides from Round 1 — the other coming earlier on Saturday night when the New Zealand Warriors take on the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium. 

 

MATCH DETAILS

Date — Saturday, March 17, 2017

Time — 7:30pm AEDT

Venue — AAMI Park, Melbourne

 

EVENT DETAILS

6:00pm — Gates Open at AAMI Park

7:30pm — NRL, Melbourne Storm vs. Wests Tigers

 

TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION

TV — Live via Fox League (Ch.502)

Radio — Live via AM 702 ABC Grandstand

Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)

 

LATEST CROWNBET ODDS

Head to Head — Melbourne ($1.15), Wests Tigers ($5.50)

Line — Melbourne -15.5 ($1.90), Wests Tigers +15.5 ($1.94)

Odds correct as of Thursday, March 15 at 3:00pm — 18+ only, Gamble responsibly.

 

TEAM LISTS

Melbourne Storm — 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Dale Finucane (Interchange: 14. Tim Glasby 15. Kenny Bromwich 16. Christian Welch 17. Sam Kasiano 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Joe Stimson 20. Billy Walters 21. Brandon Smith)

 

Wests Tigers — 1. Tuimoala Lolohea 2. Corey Thompson 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Pita Godinet 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Elijah Taylor (Interchange: 14. Matt McIlwrick 15. Alex Twal 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Matt Eisenhuth 18. Josh Aloiai 19. David Nofoaluma 20. Tim Grant 21. Tyson Gamble)

 

KEY MATCHUP — Tuimoala Lolohea vs. Billy Slater

There are certainly plenty of interesting matchups to keep an eye on the field this week but we can’t go any further than the clash between the two fullbacks. On one hand there’s Slater and his champion career, while on the other hand is Lolohea, the man who was the champion for Wests Tigers last weekend with his sideline conversion to win the game. Lolohea had played a strong game up until that moment too, and kicking that goal will certainly give him an abundance of confidence for the year ahead at Wests Tigers, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can take his game another level this weekend. If ever there was a time or a player to do it against, Slater in his 300th career game might just be it…

 

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referees — Grant Atkins and Jon Stone

Touch Judges — Nick Morel and Phil Henderson

Review Officials — Luke Patten and Jarred Maxwell

 

THE BURNING QUESTIONS

1. Will it be another milestone to remember for Billy Slater?

He won his debut, he won his 50th game. He won his 100th, his 150th, his 200th and his 250th too, so the big question is as to whether it’ll be another milestone to remember for Billy Slater this weekend. His return coincidently features at the same time as the Storm’s first home game of the year — which will see the Minor Premiership, Premiership and World Cup Challenge trophies presented to the crowd beforehand — so it’s certainly set up nicely for a special night. Will there be a spoiler to the party?

 

2. What will Benji Marshall offer in his second game back?

If there is to be a spoiler, Benji Marshall is surely the man to make it happen after his brilliant return to Wests Tigers colours last weekend. Playing his first game for the club in 1646 days, Marshall was brilliant in the second half with his experience and game management, and offered plenty in attack to suggest that Wests Tigers will cope fine with Josh Reynolds sidelined for the next few weeks. With the pressure of his return out of the way, will we see a more free-flowing and care-free Marshall this weekend?

 

3. Are Wests Tigers set to break another hoodoo?

It was billed as the unbreakable record with Wests Tigers losing their last 11 games against the Roosters, combined with Cooper Cronk not losing a season opener since 2005. Ivan Cleary’s side broke the streak last weekend to secure a stunning win over the premiership favourites, so can they end another hoodoo this weekend when they run out at AAMI Park? Since their foundation, Wests Tigers have won just once and lost 11 times against the Storm in Melbourne — will that run also come to an end on Saturday?