Few games in the Vodafone Warriors’ history have had a greater sense of occasion than tomorrow’s NRL clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium (1.45pm kick-off; game day sponsor: Canterbury of New Zealand).
Coinciding with the club’s 20th anniversary season, the Vodafone Warriors’ first-ever Anzac Day match launches an unprecedented programme of five consecutive NRL games played in five cities on a day when New Zealanders and Australians commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
The special feature of the day at Mount Smart Stadium will be the Anzac Day ceremony due to start at 1.35pm.
The formalities begin with both teams entering the field to the accompaniment of the Royal New Zealand Navy Band before forming up behind the New Zealand and Australian flags in front of the West Stand.
The Last Post will be played followed by a moment’s silence, the Ode of Remembrance (read in Maori and English), the Reveille and the singing of the Australian and New Zealand national anthems (Emma Morrison will sing the Australian anthem and Che Fu the New Zealand anthem).
The Royal New Zealand Navy Band will perform again at halftime while Canterbury of New Zealand will also have an activity.
The game itself pits the Vodafone Warriors against the club they have the best record against in recent times.
They have had eight straight victories over the Titans winning home and away in each of the last four seasons including a 42-0 shutout in the last home game last year. Gold Coast has been travelling well lately, though, winning three of its last four games while the Vodafone Warriors have just the one victory in the same time frame.
The day will be especially significant for 21-year-old Raymond Faitala-Mariner who makes his debut off the bench as Vodafone Warrior No 200, the eighth player to appear in his first game for the club so far this season.
It’s also a big day for veteran prop Sam Rapira who makes his first appearance in his 10th NRL season after recovering from a hamstring injury while 20-year-old David Fusitu’a comes into the centres for his maiden NRL outing of the year.
The game also provides the Mount Smart Stadium faithful with another chance to salute fan favourite Manu Vatuvei. Two weeks ago they helped him celebrate his 200th NRL game on a night when he scored two tries to draw level with Nigel Vagana’s record for the most tries in the competition by a New Zealander; last week he snared it outright with his 141st try in the devastating loss to the Cowboys.
This week it was confirmed the 29-year-old giant wing had been signed on a new three-year contract which will make him a 15-season Vodafone Warrior, a record for the club. The big hits just keep coming for The Beast who now needs only four more tries for the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons, the ultimate tribute to not only his reliability and ability but his durability.
While Vatuvei has impressed in scoring six tries in seven games so far this season to lift his career tally to 141 in 201 appearances, prop Ben Matulino has also been exceptional leading the pack. He’s averaging more than 160 metres a game, his numbers for each game reading 160 (Cowboys), 158 (Tigers), 165 (Storm), 168 (Broncos), 150 (Eels), 188 (Raiders) and 145 (Knights).
This will be the 17th match between the Vodafone Warriors and the Titans. The Vodafone Warriors have a 10-6 edge in the 16 played so far.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 SAM RAPIRA | The veteran front rower makes his first appearance in what is his 10th and final NRL season before moving to the English Super League. The 28-year-old has had three games with the NSW Cup side in his comeback from a niggling hamstring injury.
#2 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER | An Otahuhu Leopards junior, the big second rower has consistently impressed in a total of more than 50 NYC and NSW Cup games for the club since 2012. He becomes Vodafone Warrior #200 after being used as 18th man against the Cowboys.
#3 DAVID FUSITU’A | Like Rapira, Fusitu’a is making his first NRL appearance of the season. In his first outings since having shoulder surgery he scored three tries in two games for the club’s NSW Cup side to earn his 13th NRL appearance.
#4 JONATHAN WRIGHT | The tall right wing moves within two appearances of his 100th NRL game. Scoring his first try for the club last week, he has combined reliability under the high ball with solid work bringing the ball out of defence.
#5 BEN MATULINO | Playing his 160th career game, Matulino is out to continue his rich vein of form. He has been one of the competition’s most impressive front rowers all season so far and must be in line to be named in the Kiwis’ Anzac Test squad on Sunday.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, APRIL 18 v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS | LOST 24-28
Most runs | Ben Matulino 16, Jacob Lillyman 14, Tuimoala Lolohea 14, Jonathan Wright 14, Konrad Hurrell 12, Sam Lisone 11, Manu Vatuvei 11.
Most metres | Konrad Hurrell 213, Ben Matulino 160, Jacob Lillyman 134, Solomone Kata 120, Sam Lisone 111.
Most tackle breaks | Manu Vatuvei 7, Konrad Hurrell 4.
Line breaks | Solomone Kata 3, Manu Vatuvei 2.
Most tackles | Simon Mannering 50, Bodene Thompson 48, Jacob Lillyman 33, Nathan Friend 29, Thomas Leuluai 26, Chad Townsend 24.
Missed tackles | Sam Lisone 0, Tuimoala Lolohea 0.
RECORD | v GOLD COAST TITANS
Overall | Played 16, Vodafone Warriors 10, Titans 6.
At Mount Smart Stadium | Played 7, Vodafone Warriors 5, Titans 2.
500 Games | The Vodafone Warriors play their 498th match since entering the competition in 1995.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman plays his 194th NRL match.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 132nd game for the club.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafones Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 91st NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Jonathan Wright plays his 98th NRL match, Bodene Thompson plays his 93rd NRL match.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend plays his 46th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 141 tries in 201 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 38, Konrad Hurrell 38.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
1.45pm, Saturday, April 25
Referees: Gavin Morris and David Munro
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 DAVID FUSITU’A
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 THOMAS LEULUAI
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 NATHAN FRIEND
15 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
16 SAM LISONE
17 SAM RAPIRA
18 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.35, Gold Coast Titans $3.00
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 1.25pm NZT (kick-off 1.45pm), Saturday, April 25