By Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 09 – New Zealand Warriors V Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Saturday, Westpac Stadium. 19.30 local time.
LAST WEEK: New Zealand back in the winners circle with a close win against the Gold Coast Titans 25-24
Canterbury-Bankstown had the luck of facing the injury-ravaged Wests Tigers outfit who stood no chance 40-4.
THIS WEEK: The Warriors are playing their first ever home game outside of Auckland. A huge occasion for the New Zealand based franchise. A boost of confidence from last weekend is going to help them immensely. To carry on is a necessity.
Two in two for the Bulldogs and they’ve looked classy in both those occasions. A long was away from their efforts from last season, but with some key players back from injury they can be a tough outfit.
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Warriors will have a huge fan base in Wellington. And it’s going to be a good occasion. Special black and yellow Wellington coloured strip too. The forwards need to keep up the physicality aspect. Confidence does wonders to a side. And after under performing most of this season, the backs need to flourish with ball in hand.
The Bankstown mob have played at this ground before, bringing a series of home games to the Westpac Stadium in the early 2000’s. The forward pack is now sporting a huge mainframe that won’t be easily pulled apart. Getting better and better each week, it’s only a matter of time before they click perfectly.
THE BATTLE OF: The halfbacks. Shaun Johnson was much improved last week and has been outstanding this year for the Warriors. He can easily dictate the match with his great kicking skills. One of the quickest in the league, he has many attributes that can tear opposing teams apart. Give him and inch, he’ll take a mile.
Trent Hodkinson has found his way in to the side under poor form and injuries of other players, but has been nothing short of solid in the three matches he’s played this season. With plenty key players around him, he has the ability to lead the team around with ease.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Glen Fisiiahi. Back in the Warriors first grade squad due to injury to Kevin Locke at the back. Fisiiahi’s speed is only one element of his game. With size on his side, Fisiiahi has a real chance to crack the first grade if he can spark things at the back.
James Graham. He seemed to spark the Bulldogs with his return last week, and for a front-rower his ball skills are just as good as the halves. He has a range of options that can make him deadly when taking on the defensive line.
This is going to be a beaut. No two ways about it. The Warriors have a lot to play for, and their season needs a win. The Bulldogs aren’t going to roll over and make way for the Warriors steam train, but they’ll do everything they can to upset the fans. Warriors in golden point? Dare I say it? 23-22.
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