After five weeks since their last home game the Vodafone Warriors will seek their third win on end when they meet the Newcastle Knights in Sunday’s 12th-round #GirlPower clash at Mount Smart Stadium (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: TNT).
Since losing 28-32 at home on Anzac Day, the Vodafone Warriors have played just twice in the past month with the representative round and their first bye bookending thrilling back-to-back away wins in Sydney over Cronulla (20-16) and Parramatta (17-13).
Those results and the two points from the bye have the Vodafone Warriors sitting seventh on the table on 12 points level with the Sydney Roosters (fifth), South Sydney (sixth) and Penrith (eighth). They’re two points clear of five teams on 10 points including the Knights who are 12th following their 18-31 loss to Brisbane on Monday night.
Since their successful 2011 campaign, the Vodafone Warriors have won three consecutive matches only twice; they had five victories on end midway through the 2013 season (three of the wins at Mount Smart Stadium) and three straight last year over Brisbane, Penrith and Parramatta (all at home).
Sunday’s homecoming coincides with the club’s 2015 Women in League game (#GirlPower) featuring another tripleheader programme. First up is the New South Wales Cup encounter between the Vodafone Warriors – lying fourth in the competition – and the Knights (11.40am) followed by NYC contest between the two clubs (1.40pm); the Vodafone Junior Warriors are also fourth on their ladder.
Three players involved in Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener are named to start with the Vodafone Warriors boasting prop Jacob Lillyman from the winning Queensland team plus New South Wales second rower Ryan Hoffman. The Knights have Hoffman’s fellow Blues back rower Beau Scott.
Lillyman, who will make his 197th career appearance this week, was used in a 24-minute stint either side of halftime by the Maroons, making 66 metres from eight runs plus 18 tackles with no misses and no errors. In his 80-minute shift Hoffman made 108 metres from 15 runs as well as 32 tackles.
They’ve both played all 10 games for the Vodafone Warriors so far this season as have other starting forwards Ben Matulino, Nathan Friend, Bodene Thompson and Simon Mannering. Also maintaining their runs of consecutive games will be Tuimoala Lolohea, Solomone Kata, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson and Sam Lisone.
Sunday’s match is the 34th between the Vodafone Warriors and the Newcastle, the Knights holding a 17-15 overall winning edge with one match draw. At home the Vodafone Warriors have played the Knights 18 times, winning nine, losing eight and drawing one; eight of those nine home wins have come in the last nine encounters.
The biggest wins over Newcastle were their first success in 1999 (42-0) and the 52-10 victory in 2007, both at Mount Smart Stadium.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 SAM TOMKINS | Tomkins is set for his long-awaited return from a knee injury. He has been desperate to play again in what is his last season with the club. He brings an extra dimension to the fullback role with his playmaking quality on either side of the ruck.
#2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | After starting at fullback in Sam Tomkins’ absence in the last seven games, the gifted Lolohea reverts to the centres where he started against Canberra and Parramatta earlier in the season. He teams up again with Jonathan Wright on the right edge.
#3 NATHAN FRIEND | The vastly-experienced Friend is in line for a heavier workload in the wake of Thomas Leuluai’s season-ending knee injury. After being used from the bench in all 10 games so this season he has been named to start against the Knights this week.
#4 SILIVA HAVILI | The 22-year-old is promoted from the NSW Cup side for his first NRL outing in almost a year. His last appearance was as starting hooker against South Sydney in Perth on June 7 last year after being used from the bench in his first five first-grade games.
#5 RYAN HOFFMAN AND JACOB LILLYMAN | They were Origin rivals on Wednesday night but are team-mates again this week facing the challenge of backing up after their exertions in Sydney when Hoffman played 80 minutes for the Blues and Lillyman 24 for the Maroons.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, MAY 16 v PARRAMATTA EELS WON 17-13
Most runs | Jonathan Wright 20, Ben Matulino 20, Simon Mannering 19, Jacob Lillyman 19, Tuimoala Lolohea 17, Solomone Kata 14, Ken Maumalo 14, Bodene Thompson 12, Albert Vete 11.
Most metres | Simon Mannering 170, Ben Matulino 165, Jonathan Wright 157, Solomone Kata 154, Jacob Lillyman 152, Bodene Thompson 129, Albert Vete 120, Ken Maumalo 120, Tuimoalal Lolohea 112.
Most tackle breaks | Solomone Kata 6, Shaun Johnson 5, Bodene Thompson 5, Tuimoala Lolohea 3.
Most off loads | Ben Matulino 4.
Most tackles | Simon Mannering 51, Nathan Friend 39, Bodene Thompson 35, Jacob Lillyman 33, Sione Lousi 29, Sam Lisone 27, Chad Townsend 27, Dominique Peyroux 26, Ben Matulino 22, Albert Vete 20.
Missed tackles | Simon Mannering 0, Bodene Thompson 0, Ben Matulino 0, Nathan Friend 0, Sione Lousi 0, Sam Lisone 0, Tuimoala Lolohea 0, Ken Maumalo 0.
RECORD | v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Overall | Played 33, Vodafone Warriors 15, Knights 17, Drawn 1.
Home | Played 18, Vodafone Warriors 9, Knights 8, Drawn 1.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman plays his 197th NRL match.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 135th game for the club.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 94TH NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson plays his 96th NRL match.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend plays his 49th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 142 tries in 203 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 40, Konrad Hurrell 38.
500 NRL Points | Shaun Johnson 484.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
4.00pm, Sunday, May 31
Referees: Ben Cummins and David Munro
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 SILIVA HAVILI
15 SEBASTINE IKAHIHIFO
16 SAM LISONE
17 ALBERT VETE
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.33, Newcastle Knights $3.10
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 3.30pm NZT (kick-off 4.00pm), Sunday, May 31