Round 9: Warriors v Wests Tigers preview
Surprise packets hit a slump.
Two of the more impressive teams to start the season, have slightly fallen off as the Warriors head back across the ditch, hosting the Wests Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Both sides come off losses, Warriors thumped by Melbourne on ANZAC day while the Tigers fell late against a much more spirited Eels outfit.
For the home side, their last home game was probably, one of the more resolute and complete, performances against the previously undefeated Dragons just a fortnight ago. Their defence shocked the Dragons then the steady work of Issac Luke and Mason Lino steered them home - since then, Melbourne blew them away and now the return of Shaun Johnson gives them a bump as they take on a Tigers team that kept their opponents to less than two tries in four of five of their victories.
The faithful in orange, white and black are firmly all on the bus. Cleary has the squad believing, none more so than halfback Luke Brooks. The young half has scored twice, before piling on half a dozen try-assists as the partnership between him and Marshall has flourished. Outside their halves, the Tigers have some spark in their backline through Corey Thompson and Esan Marsters with the grit upfront, Elijah Taylor returns this week, adding steel to a formidable pack.
So we're all set for an exciting encounter between two of the surprise packets of the nascent season and a majority of the Tigers contests being decided by less than a converted try, it makes for popcorn viewing.
Last meeting: Round 26 2017 - Wests Tigers 28 Warriors 16
Who to watch: It was more rocks than diamonds last weekend for veteran playmaker, Benji Marshall. The half had enjoyed a pleasant return to the inner west - playing the wise head for young half Luke Brooks, now with the looming return of Josh Reynolds, Marshall might look to play a blinder in his home country.
Run, Shaun run! Returning Warriors talisman Shaun Johnson has always looked much sharper when he takes on the line, now possibly without Luke, he has to take the game by the scruff of the neck. If he can get early ball to top try-scorer, Fusitua and the other wrecking balls in the backline and it takes the Warriors a long way to victory.
The favourite: Home ground advantage sees the Warriors backed in for this one.
My tip: Besides their blip last week against Melbourne, the Warriors have looked steady this season. So the Tigers have their work cut out for them, and I think the home side will get home. Warriors by 12.