By Guest Writer Stephen Gallagher
GAME OF THE ROUND: ROUND 11 – Wests Tigers V New Zealand Warriors – Friday, Leichhardt Oval 19.30 local time.
LAST WEEK: Wests got an easy two points with a bye. Struggled up front early but eventually strolled through and got the result.
New Zealand had a hard fought victory at home over the Sydney Roosters. A game which saw the lead change multiple times. Eventually winning 30-26.
THIS WEEK:The Tigers will be looking to get the middle of their season on track after what can only be described as a poor start for their standards. Sitting in ninth with only four wins, this is not good enough. It will be hard without their play-maker Robbie Farah who was selected for State Of Origin. The pressure will be on the Tigers to perform. They have a solid young team with the players to get them where they need to go, but it’s about time that players stopped looking around at each other and stand up and make a difference.
The Warriors will go in to this one with back to back wins. Hardly consistent enough this season to call that good form but with both games over difficult opponents this means they will be blessed with the confidence they need. Warriors need only to look back to last year as they contested the Grand Final. Slowly they are finding the right dynamics in their forward rotation to become a massive and deadly side. Their young players are certainly putting their hands up too, and this is such a good look for any club.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Wests have a good record over the Warriors. However they need more than history on their side to get up for this one. Wests have the ability to create space outside from anywhere on the field with such good backs. They have a lot of pace to burn, and that is such a good advantage to have. Making the Warriors turn around is key. Get their big guys going backwards on strategic kicks and force the errors. Wests will be lacking at dummy half due to the absence of Farah but they have big names such as Marshall, Moltzen, Blair and Woods to step up and be the x-factor for this side.
New Zealand are one of the biggest sides in the competition. A lot of teams fear them because they just have size all over the field. If they can use that to their advantage this will give them a big shot at taking this game too. A quick play the ball is the key factor to this. The Tigers will be doing their best to slow this section of the game down. They need to be disciplined too, it has been a few silly penalties lately which could have cost them games. It was the Warriors who knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs last year, so they know they can do this.
THE BATTLE OF: The fabulous five-eighth’s. Benji Marshall and James Maloney will go head to head. Everyone knows Marshall. He is the face of rugby league. The things he can produce, only he knows. I doubt we have seen everything this man has to offer. He is a game changer and a game winner. This is exactly why we love to watch Benji play. A little out of sorts this season but that means nothing for him. He can win this one by himself.
James Maloney some would say unlucky for Origin selection, but with his feet firmly grounded on the field this sensation is the backbone of the Warriors. Pin point accuracy with his kicking and a solid running game. His direction leads the Warriors well. Works well off Mateo when he has the ball in hand, so is Maloney gets any space on Friday night he could blow the game wide open.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Aaron Woods – A fine front rower who has really matured this season. Many more minutes, and has stood up as being one of the Tigers best.
Glen Fisiiahi – Saw him earlier in the year when the Warriors were out of form, but if he can get any space he will run a mile. A try scoring machine.
The difference between a win and a loss this week is form. The Tigers have had a bye and that can work either positively or negatively the week after. The Warriors winning two in a row will give them the belief they need. Warriors 32-16.
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