Round 8: Storm v Warriors preview - 2017 Round 8
This clash has traditionally been one to watch and I doubt this clash will be any different. Alongside the Dragons Vs Roosters clash, this has the makings of match-of-the-round type stuff.
The Storm are almost back to full strength after the inclusion of Cameron Munster in its last start victory over the Manly Sea Eagles. Unfortunately for youngster Ryley Jacks, this meant he had limited game time and the possibility of that happening again is likely with Munster named on the bench.
With still talented backrower Tohu Harris still to return for injury, it's scary to think how good a side that can provide on paper.
After a poor second half last week against Manly at Brookvale, Craig Bellamy will be hoping for a much improved, 80 minute performance against the New Zealand Warriors who showed glimpses of its talent in the loss to Canberra last week.
The Warriors looked to have turned a corner prior to last week's clash against the Canberra Raiders. It had recorded wins over the Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels, and the win over the Eels was impressive for the way the New Zealand side played defensively.
That dissipated last week in a defeat to the Raiders where the Warriors led 8-6 at one stage.
Despite this, the Warriors are still within touching distance of the top 8 with three wins from seven starts. If it can get a bit of a roll on then who knows what this side is capable of. Like always, it will come down to how consistent they are on the field, something that it hasn't been able to do since Ivan Cleary was at the helm when it made a Grand Final in 2011.
A win over the Storm would be huge scalp for the Warriors and it will need to do so on the back of a strong defensive display to stop this Storm team that knows how to score points.
The Storm have already got a win over the Warriors so far in 2017 with a 16-point win back in round two. They have won the last three including the ANZAC Day clash last year 42-0.
In somewhat positive reading for Warriors fans, they have recorded a commendable three wins from seven visits to AAMI Park. In the seven ANZAC Day clashes, Melbourne holds the ledger four wins to the Warriors two and one draw from seven meetings.
Who to watch: Suliasi Vunivalu crossed for two more tries last week in the Storm's win over Manly and the Warriors will need to be at its bets to stop the Fijian flyer from posting more misery on them. Vunivalu posted a double in last year's ANZAC Day match and was the catalyst for the big win. His finishing ability close to the line as well as his pace and strength are valuable tools for the winger who has become one of the most important members of the Storm backline. With an in-form and fully fit Billy Slater back and linking well with is outside men, look for Vunivalu to benefit from this combination on Tuesday evening.
With six tries from six matches and close to 1,000 metres next to his name, Vunivalu is having a fantastic season. The Warriors could win this game with its much vaunted attack but will need to lay the platform in the forwards and attempt to push the Storm onto the back foot early on. A man capable of doing this is former Melbourne player Ryan Hoffman. Hoffman was superb in the opening 40 minutes of the Warriors defeat to Canberra last week, posting a try and bending back the defensive line of the Raiders.
He is a Warrior (pardon the pun) in the middle portion of the field as well as being a very strong defender. With Melbourne bound to flood that area with its array of powerful and dominant forwards, it will be up to Hoffman and Simon Mannering to ensure they don't get over the advantage line and create quick play the balls. Players often lift against their former clubs and I expect to see the same from Hoffman on Tuesday as he attempts to get his side's season back on track.
My tip: This is a tricky match to tip. On paper the Warriors have all the necessary weapons to trouble the Storm and really should be higher on the ladder than it is. However the form has been wavering and they haven't been playing with that 80-minute intensity that you need to to defeat the Storm. If it can control the forward pack of the Storm and minimise the room and space the Melbourne backline has it could have some success, that is a big if though. Storm by 12.