Wests Tigers will look to bounce back from a second close defeat in as many weeks when they take on the New Zealand Warriors this Saturday for their Round 9 clash.
Off the back of arguably their worst showing so far in season 2018, Ivan Cleary's side will certainly be determined to deliver an improved performance and correct their recent run of form, which has seen them record two heartbreaking two-point defeats in as many weeks to slip out of the competition's top four.
Wests Tigers still sit comfortably inside the top eight courtesy of their strong start to the season, but they'll know that they need to get back in the winners circle soon to find their momentum once again.
It's also a similar storyline for the Warriors, who were blown off AAMI Park last week in embarrassing style with the Melbourne Storm amassing a 38-point lead inside the opening 40 minutes.
Stephen Kearney's side have been one of the genuine surprise packets so far in 2018, but two losses in their last three games has them in a similar position to Wests Tigers — needing to win to get back on track.
They'll be boosted by the inclusions of Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris, Solomone Kata and Isaac Luke, while Wests Tigers will welcome back the crucial inclusions of Elijah Taylor and Alex Twal.
Which of those players helps their side most on Saturday night, however, still remains to be seen...
Date — Saturday, May 5, 2018
Time — 5:30pm AEST (7:30pm local)
Venue — Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Fox League (Ch.502)
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand and AM 2GB 873
Live Stream —Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
Head to Head — New Zealand Warriors ($1.55), Wests Tigers ($2.45)
Line — New Zealand Warriors -5.5 ($1.92), Wests Tigers +5.5 ($1.92)
New Zealand Warriors
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitu'a 3. Peta Hiku 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Blake Green 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Bunty Afoa 9. Isaac Luke 10. Agnatius Paasi 16. Isaiah Papali'i12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair (Interchange: 11. Simon Mannering 14. Karl Lawton 15. Sam Lisone 17. James Gavet).
1. Corey Thompson 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Mahe Fonua 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 17. Sauaso Sue 13. Elijah Taylor 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Robbie Rochow 8. Matt Eisenhuth (Interchange: 9. Pita Godinet14. Alex Twal 16. Michael Chee Kam 18. Tim Grant).
Elijah Taylor starts at hooker with Pita Godinet dropping back to the bench. That sees Matt Eisenhuth move to lock and Sauaso Sue to the front row, while Tim Grant replaces Josh Aloiai in the squad. For the Warriors, Isaac Luke has overcome his knee injury and will start the match at hooker, with the only change that of Simon Mannering, who drops back to the bench in place of Isaiah Papali'i.
2018 SEASON SO FAR
|New Zealand Warriors||Wests Tigers|
|Position||3rd (12 points)||5th (10 points)|
|Points For||172 points (6th)||148 points (8th)|
|Points Against||154 points (8th)||113 points (3rd)|
|Home Form||Won 3, Lost 1||Won 3, Lost 2|
|Away Form||Won 3, Lost 1||Won 2, Lost 1|
|Streak||Lost last 1 game||Lost last 2 games|
KEY MATCHUP — David Fusitu'a vs. Mahe Fonua
In a match full of intriguing matchups, the one on the touchline might just be the most explosive as the competition's leading try-scorer takes on a player who only featured in his first NRL game last week. David Fusitu'a has been the beneficiary of the Warriors' clinical right edge attack this year, with his combination with Johnson and Peta Hiku in particular leading to a number of spectacular tries. The acrobatic winger touched down for two more tries last week to become the first player in double-digit tries this year, and Wests Tigers left edge defence will certainly have their work cut out trying to stop him. However, on that note, it's worth pointing out that aside from a cross-field Jamie Buhrer kick, the left edge of Cleary's side has been remarkably resolute and looks more and more dangerous in attack every week. Mahe Fonua was brilliant on debut last week for Wests Tigers with team-high totals in runs and metres gained, and will certainly offer plenty coming from his own end. What was most exciting was the way in which Luke Brooks looked to integrate the powerful winger close to the line in attack, with his bullocking run paving the way for Benji Marshall's try against the Eels. Look for Wests Tigers to again try and utilise Fonua's unique skillset against the Warriors right edge defence, which showed to be extremely vulnerable at times last weekend.
Referees — Ben Cummins and Grant Atkins
Touch Judges — Chris McMillan and Phil Henderson
Review Officials — Luke Patten and Ashley Klein