While the focus will be on milestone men Jacob Lillyman and Bodene Thompson, team-mates Manu Vatuvei and Shaun Johnson have a chance to extend two remarkable points-scoring streaks when the Vodafone Warriors meet Canberra in Saturday’s 16th-round #OnesieParty NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium (5.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: flava).
For prolific try-scorer Vatuvei it’s a record which stretches back to the end of the 2012 season when the Vodafone Warriors hosted the Raiders in their last game of the campaign.
While the match and the season ended grimly, Vatuvei scored a double to ignite what has been one of the NRL’s hottest scoring runs.
Indeed he has scored no fewer than 13 tries in the Vodafone Warriors’ last six matches against the Raiders – two in the 2012 loss, two in a 16-20 defeat in Canberra early in 2013, a hat-trick at Mount Smart Stadium later in that season, two more in another huge win at Eden Park in 2014, another hat-trick in Canberra later in the year and one in this year’s 18-6 second-round victory in the Australian capital.
Johnson missed the 2012 loss, kicked two goals in the 16-20 defeat in Canberra and then had back-to-back 26-point harvests in the big home wins in 2013 (Mount Smart) and 2014 (Eden Park). He wasn’t able to play in the third consecutive 50-pointer in Canberra last year and then kicked three from three in this year’s victory to give him 62 points in his last four outings against them.
When Vatuvei and Johnson bagged their hat-tricks in the 50-16 win at Mount Smart in 2013, Vatuvei snared his in the space of nine minutes only for Johnson to secure his in less than seven minutes.
While the Vodafone Warriors had winning scores of 50-16, 54-12 and 54-18 in three matches on end, they were fully stretched when the two sides last met on March 15 this year.
There’s little between the two sides on the competition ladder with the Vodafone Warriors in seventh spot with 16 points, only two points ahead of the 10th-placed Raiders who have emerged as the NRL’s top attacking side of the season so far (amassing 339 points).
They’ve also been impressive away from home winning five of seven games on the road while the Vodafone Warriors have won three and lost three at Mount Smart Stadium.
If the home record is to improve, the Vodafone Warriors will need full value from their big men including players of the moment Lillyman and Thompson; Lillyman makes his 200th career appearance on Saturday while first-year Vodafone Warrior Thompson makes his 100th.
Johnson is next on the milestone schedule as he eyes his 98th appearance for the club this week with his 100th set to come up against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on July 19 – the same side and at the same ground where he started his NRL career four years ago.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 JACOB LILLYMAN | It’s a special occasion for ‘Bull’ as he ticks off his 200th NRL appearance since making his debut with North Queensland in 2003. The Origin front rower played 62 times for the Cowboys; this is his 138th game for the Vodafone Warriors.
#2 BODENE THOMPSON | The former Gold Coast and Wests Tigers back rower has been highly impressive since joining the Vodafone Warriors this season. His 15th appearance for the club will be the Tauranga-born Thompson’s 100th NRL match.
#3 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA | Lolohea’s utility value will be on show again this week. He wasn’t used against Gold Coast last week but returns on the wing after previously being used in the centres and at fullback this year. He was used on the wing last season.
#4 SAM TOMKINS | The England international overcame his knee injury to make just his fourth appearance of the season last week, all four of which the Vodafone Warriors have won. Tomkins underlined his quality again with his heavy involvement against the Titans.
#5 CHARLIE GUBB | The popular Wellingtonian has earned his third straight appearance after energetic efforts against the Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast. He was desperately unlucky to miss out on his first NRL try last week after going close twice.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, JUNE 20 v GOLD COAST TITANS | WON 36-14
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 5, Gold Coast 5.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 33/40 (83%), Gold Coast 24/32 (75%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 188, Gold Coast 140.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1788, Gold Coast 1211.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 18 (136), Gold Coast 9 (76).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 5, Gold Coast 3.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 32, Gold Coast 23.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 23 (416), Gold Coast 16 (484).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 278, Gold Coast 362.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 23, Gold Coast 32.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 11, Gold Coast 9.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 7, Gold Coast 10.
Runs | Ben Matulino 21, Jacob Lillyman 20, Manu Vatuvei 17, Solomone Kata 13, Nathan Friend 13, Bodene Thompson 13, Simon Mannering 13, Sam Tomkins 11, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 10.
Metres gained | Ben Matulino 222, Jacob Lillyman 204, Manu Vatuvei 139, Solomone Kata 122, Simon Mannering 118, Shaun Johnson 116, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 111, Nathan Friend 108.
Tackle breaks | Shaun Johnson 5, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 5, Solomone Kata 4, Nathan Friend 3, Manu Vatuvei 2, Chad Townsend 2, Simon Mannering 2, Bodene Thompson 2, Sam Tomkins 2.
Off loads | Ben Matulino 3, Sam Tomkins 2, Simon Mannering 2.
Tackles | Bodene Thompson 38, Nathan Friend 33, Simon Mannering 31, Jacob Lillyman 29.
Missed tackles | Nathan Friend 0, Jacob Lillyman 0, Manu Vatuvei 0.
RECORD | v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Overall | Played 33, Vodafone Warriors 16, Raiders 17.
Away | Played 16, Vodafone Warriors 10, Raiders 6.
200 NRL Games | Jacob Lillyman has plays his 200th NRL match.
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 138th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson plays his 98th NRL match.
100 NRL Games | Bodene Thompson plays his 100th NRL match.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 145 tries in 207 games.
50 NRL Tries | Shaun Johnson 42, Konrad Hurrell 39.
500 NRL Points | Shaun Johnson 511.
MILESTONES ACHIEVED IN 2015
20th Anniversary | March 10, 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Vodafone Warriors making their debut in the competition against Brisbane on March 10, 1995.
50 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Ben Henry made his 50th NRL appearance for the club on March 15 when he lined up against Canberra.
200 NRL Games | Nathan Friend made his 200th NRL appearance on March 21 when he lined up against Parramatta; it was his 65th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing one game for Brisbane, 34 for Melbourne and 100 for Gold Coast.
250 NRL Games | Ryan Hoffman made his 250th NRL appearance on April 6 when he lined up against his former club Melbourne; he played 245 games for Melbourne.
200 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Manu Vatuvei made his 200th NRL appearance for the club against Wests Tigers on April 11; he is the third player to appear in 200 games for the Vodafone Warriors (the others being Stacey Jones and Simon Mannering).
10 NRL Seasons for Vodafone Warriors | When Sam Rapira made his 170th career appearance against the Titans on Anzac Day he became the seventh player to represent the Vodafone Warriors in 10 NRL seasons after Stacey Jones, Awen Guttenbeil, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei and Simon Mannering).
200th Vodafone Warrior | Raymond Faitala-Mariner became the club’s 200th first-grade player when he made his debut against Gold Coast on Anzac Day.
500 Games in the NRL | The Vodafone Warriors’ match against Parramatta on May 16 was the club’s 500th in the competition since debuting in 1995.
100 NRL Games | Jonathan Wright made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against one of his former clubs Parramatta on May 16; it was his ninth game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 12 games for Parramatta, 38 games for Canterbury-Bankstown and 41 games for Cronulla.
50 NRL Games | Chad Townsend made his 50th NRL appearance when he lined up against South Sydney on June 6; it was his 31st match for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 19 games for Cronulla.
10 Tries in 10 Consecutive Seasons | Manu Vatuvei’s try against the Sydney Roosters on June 6 completed the unprecedented feat of scoring 10 tries or more in 10 consecutive seasons (2006-2015).
500 Points in the NRL | Shaun Johnson passed 500 career points in the NRL on his way to scoring 20 points against Gold Coast on June 20; he is the fourth player to reach the mark for the Vodafone Warriors after Ivan Cleary, Stacey Jones and Manu Vatuvei).
VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, June 27
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Chris Butler
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
3 KONRAD HURRELL
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 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
16 CHARLIE GUBB
17 ALBERT VETE
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $1.42, Canberra $2.70
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 4.30pm (kick-off 5.00pm), Saturday, June 27