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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Warriors eye important win in Trans Tasman clash
The New Zealand Warriors will be out to break a seven-match losing streak against the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Coming into the Round 13 fixture following the bye, the Warriors will be out to claim a major scalp having only managed wins over the opening half of the season against the Bulldogs, Titans, Panthers and Dragons - all ranked among the bottom four teams in the league.
Currently sitting two points outside the top eight in 12th position, coach Stephen Kearney will fancy his side's chances against the competition leaders having fallen agonisingly short in Melbourne earlier this year on ANZAC Day, while defying their standing on the competition ladder with strong showings against South Sydney and Brisbane in narrow losses.
Regaining the services of imposing forward Agnatius Paasi from a one-match ban in the front row, former Melbourne enforcer Adam Blair will start ahead of Lachlan Burr at lock, while Tevita Satae replaces Jazz Tevaga in a bid to bolster the impact offered off the bench.
Well-rested following a weekend off with the bye, the Melbourne Storm will be eager to retain their place atop the premiership ladder despite concerns over the final makeup of the squad.
Naming all four of their representative stars - Will Chambers, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi - to back up three days after the opening State of Origin fixture, coach Craig Bellamy has selected a 22-man squad for the clash across the Tasman, including Christian Welch just a fortnight after initial fears indicated the aspiring Maroons forward had suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Winning their past three clashes against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, the Storm will be wary of the threat posed by their opponents with the New Zealand outfit notorious for capitalising upon teams impacted by Origin during the middle-third of the year.
Last meeting: Round 7 2019 - Storm 13 Warriors 12
Who to watch: Copping immense criticism for his performance against the Storm earlier this year, veteran forward Adam Blair will be out to make amends in the return fixture on Saturday afternoon. Running for just 13 metres and missing seven tackles on ANZAC Day, the 33-year-old veteran has struggled to find his place in 2019 with stints in the back row, front row and off the bench failing to bring out the best in the Kiwi enforcer. Set to bring up 300 appearances in the NRL next week, look for Blair to make a strong impression at lock as the Warriors strive to move back into the finals race with a win.
Catching the eye of every NRL fan with a series of mesmerising displays over the past month, Melbourne utility Ryan Papenhuyzen looms as a game-breaker for the Storm moving forward. Featuring primarily off the bench since making his debut in Round 4, the 20-year-old has placed enormous pressure on Jahrome Hughes with his performances at fullback, demonstrating a degree of speed to rival Josh Addo-Carr as the fastest player at the club. Set to be injected midway through the match unless granted a start pending the fitness of the side's representative outside backs, expect Papenhuyzen to make his mark by following the ball at every opportunity in order to unleash his pace from anywhere on the field.
The favourite: Sitting atop the premiership ladder and boasting seven consecutive wins over their opponents, the Storm are expected to account for the Warriors across the ditch.
My tip: Irrespective of whether Melbourne's representative quartet take the field or not, expect the visitors to prove too strong in a match unlikely to reach any great heights. Storm by 14.
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 18. Gerard Beale 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Isaiah Papalii 12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair 14. Lachlan Burr 15. Bunty Afoa 16. Chris Satae 17. Karl Lawton
1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Marion Seve 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Joe Stimson 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 23. Christian Welch
Referees: Henry Perenara, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;