Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
A season defining game awaits for both the Dragons and Warriors on Saturday afternoon at Allianz Stadium as the Red V will be looking to ensure they still have a chance at a Grand Final spot whilst their Trans-Tasman opponents will be looking to make their spot almost certain.
The Dragons came into last week's game against the Broncos as the favourites but in front of a partisan Brisbane crowd, they fell well short of their intended expectations leading into the game and to a 30-4 thrashing. While they had slightly more ball than the Broncos, they couldn't use it and other than a 7th-minute try from Sam Bremner - who used her special skills to slice through the Broncos defence - they failed to crack the opposition.
In essence, St George Illawarra were completely outplayed by Brisbane and were outrun by 200m in just eight more runs. The Dragons would be somewhat happy with a lower missed tackle count than the Broncos last weekend and making 62 tackle breaks for the game, but efforts weren't helped by losing captain and halfback Racene McGregor with a shoulder injury - however they will be boosted by her presence this weekend.
The Warriors put in a strong defensive effort in tough conditions last week at ANZ Stadium in their low scoring 10-4 win over the Sydney Roosters. They made history taking the first victory and with winger Hilda Mariu scored the first ever NRLW try. Having opened up a 10-0 margin early, ultimately it was enough of a lead to hold out the Roosters, who could only manage one try.
The test for the Warriors will be that conditions on Saturday will be much more suited to their opponents, and this could be a good test for their big pack who were able to get on top of the Roosters. The Warriors' defence was on the mark last weekend with their opponents having 55% of the ball in the game, including a shot from captain Laura Mariu who pulled off one of the hits of the weekend (in both NRL and NRLW) when she saved the game with a huge tackle on Maddie Studdon.
Who to watch: Laura Mariu - Her massive hit on Maddie Studdon late in the game aside, Mariu played the second fiddle role in the halves after being named at five-eighth but her defence was the biggest plus for the Warriors. The New Zealand international will need to be at her defensive best if the Warriors want to hold out a quick moving Dragons side.
Raecene McGregor - The Dragons halfback was an early casualty out of last week's match in Brisbane when she picked up a shoulder injury and looked to be in severe discomfort, although she did come back to the field in the final five minutes when the game was over. McGregor is an attacking livewire and her partnership with Keely Davis at five-eighth and Sam Bremner at fullback will be a boost for the Red V, who lacked direction last week.
My tip: Boosted by the return of McGregor, the Dragons will gain much needed direction in attack. The Warriors were strong in defence last week in greasy conditions which looked to suit them, so dry conditions could prove an issue but could also allow them to play a more expansive attacking game themselves. Ultimately their defensive efforts should be able to handle the Dragons, which is why I have tipped them - although a Dragons win is just as likely. If they do lose, it won't be a defeat of the size of last weekend. Warriors by 4.
4. Honey Hireme 2. Rikeya Horne 3. Jessica Sergis 15. Hannah Southwell 5. Shakiah Tungai 6. Keeley Davis 7. Raecene Mcgregor 8. Oneata Schwalger 9. Anneka Stephens 14. Holli Wheeler 11. Kezie Apps 12. Talesha Quinn 13. Annette Brander 16. Teina Clark 17. Melanie Howard 18. Asipau Mafi 19. Kate Haren
1. Apii Nicholls-pualau 5. Hilda Mariu 14. Sarina Clark 2. Langi Veainu 21. Lisa Edwards 6. Laura Mariu 7. Georgia Hale 8. Crystal Tamarua 9. Krystal Rota 10. Aieshaleigh Smalley 4. Onjeurlina Leiataua 12. Alice Vailea 18. Masuisuimatamaalii Tauaua-pauaraisa 13. Luisa Gago 15. Lorina Papali'i 16. Amber Kani 20. Racquel Anderson
Referees: Matt Noyen, Wyatt Raymond; Sideline Officials: Billy Greatbatch, Daniel Schwass; Video Referees: Henry Perenara, Bryan Norrie;