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Warriors v Sea Eagles Preview; Sunday 4pm (NZ time)
Topic Started: Mar 30 2010, 06:55 PM (151 Views)
stacey
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Warriors v Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday 4pm (NZ time)


Wow – what about those Warriors in Brisbane last weekend… can we please see that side turn up every week?

The NZ-based boys delivered edge-of-your-seat thrills as they dismantled the baby Broncos 48-16 and rocketed themselves up the ladder to fourth spot.

But is this another false dawn from the land of the long white cloud? Or can the Warriors capitalise and take down a rejuvenated Manly side that finally grabbed their first win of the season over Newcastle, a 36-12 victory that had plenty of style of its own?

The home-side Warriors opened the year with a loss to the Gold Coast but have since won back-to-back games over Cronulla and Brisbane. As neither of those sides has proven genuine contenders thus far this season, the jury is still out on the Warriors.

Now, while the Sea Eagles are down in eighth spot on the ladder with a 1-2 record, they do represent a much tougher challenge.

And the challenge against the 2008 premiers must be undertaken without Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering, who both suffered leg muscle injuries against Brisbane.

Bill Tupou comes onto the wing for Vatuvei, while Lewis Brown comes into the second row for Mannering.

In the only other named change to the side, Sam Rapira has been named to start, with Jesse Royal back to the bench.

The Sea Eagles seemingly slipped into gear against the Knights after a slow start to the year but they to need to prove they are indeed on the right track for 2010.

A loss across the ditch could see them drop off the pace of the pack, even at this early stage of the year, so they have plenty to play for.

George Rose is out (ankle injury) and Des Hasler has named three possible replacements at this stage in Chris Bailey, Terence Seu Seu and Vic Mauro.

Watch out Warriors: Manly are kicking the ball further and more accurately, allowing them to start defensive sets of six on the front foot. While the average kicking metres difference is negligible (the Sea Eagles average 614 metres, the Warriors 599 metres) the difference in kick accuracy is telling, with Manly finding space 63.3 per cent of the time compared to the Warriors’ 42.9 per cent.

Finding space with kicks allows the chasers more time to get set and also gives the kick-returner less time to burn up metres. This in turn makes the trek back for the forwards longer, slowing down a side’s progress out from their own half.

The Warriors need to get more pressure on the Manly kicking game and also need to protect their own kickers to allow time to find space.

Watch out Sea Eagles: The visitors might have the Warriors covered in kick metres but running metres is a whole different story.

The Warriors are averaging 1371 metres gained a match, while the Sea Eagles are down at just 1169 metres. The 200-metre shortfall could be fatal if it continues in this game, so the Manly defence needs to get up faster and cut down metres while the Manly attack needs to get tougher.

With Anthony Watmough (115 metres a match), Shane Rodney (101 metres) and Brent Kite (100 metres) leading the way, but not providing enough, the Sea Eagles may struggle.

Josh Perry and Jason King need to seriously lift their efforts with just 80 and 70 metre averages respectively.

Luckily for Manly fans Vatuvei is out – he averages 156 metres a match alone, a big ask for his young replacement to cover.

Where it will be won: This game is all about attack and defence up the middle of the ruck.

Of course teams tend to score more points on the fringes or in the corners, but so far this season both the Warriors and the Sea Eagles have shown a tendency, and some ability, to focus up the guts.

With five tries each in the middle of the park, the two teams are easily the most prolific in the competition and we can expect traffic to remain in and around the rucks often. Defensively the Sea Eagles have conceded two tries up the middle, while the Warriors have let in just one.

Newcastle scored only twice against the Sea Eagles last week but both were fairly soft tries to forwards, something the Warriors’ pack will be licking their lips about.

The History: Played 17; Warriors 7, Sea Eagles 10. The Warriors won the only clash between the two sides last season but the Sea Eagles have prevailed in five of the past eight games.

Manly have no problem playing at Mt Smart Stadium; in the eight games between the clubs in Auckland the Sea Eagles have won six times.

Conclusion: This should be a cracking contest which either team is capable of winning.

The Warriors have confidence and home advantage but critical injuries have hurt them. The Sea Eagles found the way to win again last weekend – but they also have some basic flaws in their set-up that could be exposed.

Go with gut feel on this one.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Grant Atkins & Luke Phillips; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.

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