Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
A week ago, this one was a forgone conclusion. Now? Who knows!
After three rounds, South Sydney were looking like world-beaters and the Warriors' wheels were falling off.
We're now just a few days on from the Warriors doing a fairly decent job of taking down a luckless Gold Coast side, and the Rabbitohs' caving to a Manly side that lost star fullback Tom Trbojevic moments after halftime.
Perhaps the scariest part for the nominal home side this Saturday (the Bunnies have moved this game to Sunshine Coast Stadium), is their defensive performance against their last two opponents. Their missed tackle counts have capped out at just under 40 for both the victory over the Titans and the loss to Manly, and that's something Wayne Bennett would not be pleased with.
While Manly struggled to throw much in the way of attack at the Bunnies after Trbojevic's departure last Saturday, the Warriors will have no such trouble with one of the NRL's more exciting backlines. 2018 Dally M winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck leads a bunch of players who love crossing the line and accumulating tries - including David Fusitu'a who finally broke his 2019 try drought in last week's win over the Titans.
A concussion to Jacob Gagan means Kyle Turner comes into the centres for the Rabbitohs who are still missing Greg Inglis. Tevita Tatola drops back to the bench with George Burgess elevated back to starting prop, while for the Warriors there's one key change with Sam Lisone returning on the bench, displacing Ligi Sao. Adam Blair starts for Isaiah Papali'i, who drops to the interchange.
Last meeting: Round 12 2018 - Warriors 10 Rabbitohs 30
The Warriors hold the edge in 35 clashes between these sides since 1995, winning 19 to the Rabbitohs 14. Honours were shared last year, the Warriors victorious 32-20 in the opening round in Perth before the Bunnies came out stronger with a 20-point victory on the weekend of the opening Origin match at Mt Smart.
Who to watch: Incumbent NSW Origin hooker Damien Cook has gone quietly about his work so far in 2019, but his impact has been huge. Delivering three try assists over the opening four rounds (he only set up eight for the whole 2018 season), he's also been involving himself more in general play kicking to great effect. And that's not mentioning his tireless defence, continuing to average more than 40 tackles per game after a huge 2018.
His opposite this weekend is 19-game hooker Karl Lawton. After twelve appearances for the Titans in 2016-17, Lawton made the move to the Warriors for more game time, but somehow ended up behind Issac Luke and Jazz Tevaga in battling for the hooking role. Through injury and suspension, Lawton's finally getting his chance and will don the number nine for the second straight week. Luckily for the Warriors, Jazz Tevaga escaped suspension at the judiciary on Tuesday, which gives the visitors the decided advantage of a two-hooker rotation, with each likely to play roughly half of the game each.
The favourite: Despite a last-start loss, the Bunnies are well backed to return to the winners circle over a patchy Warriors outfit.
My tip: It's hard to see a Wayne Bennett-coached outfit not back up a lacklustre performance like last week with a strong showing and it's on that basis I think the Bunnies should get the chocolates on Saturday in the Sunshine. Rabbitohs by 6.
1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 8. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 18. Gerard Beale 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 3. Peta Hiku 6. Chanel Harris-tavita 8. Agnatius Paasi 22. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Tohu Harris 13. Lachlan Burr 14. Jazz Tevaga 15. Isaiah Papalii 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Sam Lisone
Referees: Chris Sutton, Chris Butler; Sideline Officials: Clayton Sharpe, Liam Nicholls; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;