Round 11: Warriors v Broncos preview
Riding two-game winning streaks, two top-eight hopefuls look to keep their momentum rolling
Heavy losses to the Knights and Rabbitohs respectively a fortnight ago left many questioning whether the Warriors and Broncos were genuine finals prospects in 2019.
But both hit back at their critics with back-to-back wins and sit just two points shy of the top eight heading into the Origin period.
For the Warriors, recent form suggests that the Dragons and Panthers weren't the toughest of opponents.
Yet we have so often seen that nothing can be taken for granted in this competition and in any case both victories came away from home.
And having surged to an early 24-0 lead against Penrith, Stephen Kearney could also be proud of the fact that his squad remained focussed to restrict their opposition to only two tries.
They return to Mt. Smart Stadium this week as Kodi Nikorima prepares to face his former teammates for the first time since making a mid-season switch to the Warriors.
Nikorima has been solid since making the move, benefiting from being able to play his natural running game alongside a more traditional game manager in Blake Green.
Meanwhile, the Broncos made a massive statement last week when they took down the defending premiers Sydney 15-10.
It was the Roosters' first loss this year since Round 1.
However, the challenge now is for Anthony Seibold to get his troops up for this week's contest after undoubtedly getting a response out of them last Friday.
It shouldn't be too hard though given that a top-eight berth is already almost in sight.
Who to watch: Issac Luke stepped up last week after being handed the number nine jersey in the absence of Nathaniel Roache (back). But he may not have long to prove he still deserves to be in first grade, with Roache expected back any week. Luke terrorised the Panthers early with his dangerous running game. He helped the Warriors' forward pack roll over the top of Penrith's but will face a sterner test against Brisbane's own threat from dummy-half in James Segeyaro.
Several pundits already believe that Payne Haas has already warranted selection in this year's Origin series. It would be a stunning result for the 20-year old, who has only played eight first grade games. But he continues to improve with game time, eliminating defensive lapses and proving a handful to tackle. Last week was his best performance yet, scoring a try, running over 220 metres and busting eight tackles. A poor effort on Saturday could undo all his good work though and leave Blues coach Brad Fittler with the inkling of doubt that may be enough to see him miss out.