After missing a big opportunity last week to stay alive in the race for the finals, the Vodafone Warriors do it all over again when they face the Penrith Panthers in today’s 23rd-round NRL encounter at Pepper Stadium (5.30pm kick-off local time; 7.30pm NZT).
Despite their 0-36 loss to St George Illawarra in Wellington, the Vodafone Warriors are still just two points outside the top eight with four matches to play.
The Dragons slumped to a 6-32 loss to Brisbane last night to remain seventh on 24 points with Canterbury-Bankstown eighth on the same points total followed by Manly and the Vodafone Warriors on 22.
The Vodafone Warriors’ cause hasn’t been further hampered this week with the loss of two of their most influential performers Manu Vatuvei (shoulder injury) and Ben Matulino (suspension). It has forced another significant backline reshuffle with Jonathan Wright moved again, this time from the centres to the wing, while utility Dominique Peyroux comes into the centres with Konrad Hurrell recalled on the bench to be injected at some stage.
With Vatuvei (210 games) and Matulino (172 games) out the Vodafone Warriors lose a huge quota of experience not to mention the key contribution they both make week in, week out. Vatuvei was only just back from a month-long absence, his tally of tries for the season stalling at 11 in 16 games.
On the positive side of the ledger, veteran back rower Ryan Hoffman returns at last from a calf injury to make his 260th career appearance today and Sam Rapira comes into the front row after strong form for the club’s New South Wales Cup side.
The Vodafone Warriors and Penrith share similar concerns. Both have lost a significant number of frontline players and they’ve also been battling for success, the Vodafone Warriors having lost their last four games and the Panthers their last five.
The Vodafone Warriors’ last two visits to Pepper Stadium ended in major disappointment but their previous four produced a run of three wins – 30-16 in 2012, 26-12 in 2011 and 12-6 in 2010 – plus a 32-32 draw in 2009.
FIVE KEY FEATURES
#1 RYAN HOFFMAN | The club’s most experienced player makes a welcome return after being side-lined for the last five matches with a calf injury he picked up early in the final State of Origin match. This will be his 15th appearance of the season and his most critical.
#2 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX | This is just his fifth NRL appearance of the season in what is his last year with the club before joining St Helens. He starts in the centres but is expected to move to the back row at some point for Konrad Hurrell’s entrance from the bench.
#3 KONRAD HURRELL | The blockbusting Hurrell has had a stop-start season through injury and suspension. Resuming his campaign today with just his 10th NRL outing of the year, the timing of his introduction from the bench will be highly-anticipated.
#4 SAM RAPIRA | Like Peyroux and Hurrell, Rapira has had a disrupted NRL season as he eyes only his fourth match of the year. He comes into the side from the NSW Cup to provide much-needed experience following Ben Matulino’s three-game suspension.
#5 HALVES | Thrust into partnership following Shaun Johnson’s season-ending injury, Chad Townsend and Tuimoala Lolohea will look to improve their combination in what will be their third full outing today.
TOP STATS | SATURDAY, AUGUST 08 v DRAGONS | LOST 0-36
Penalties | Vodafone Warriors 7, Dragons 6.
Completions | Vodafone Warriors 25/35 (71%), Dragons 30/38 (79%).
Total runs | Vodafone Warriors 158, Dragons 170.
Metres gained | Vodafone Warriors 1339, Dragons 1680.
Dummy half runs (metres) | Vodafone Warriors 10 (90), Dragons 16 (114).
Line breaks | Vodafone Warriors 1, Dragons 7.
Tackle breaks | Vodafone Warriors 19, Dragons 27.
Kicks (kicking metres) | Vodafone Warriors 17 (391), Dragons 19 (550).
Tackles | Vodafone Warriors 342, Dragons 331.
Missed tackles | Vodafone Warriors 27, Dragons 19.
Offloads | Vodafone Warriors 14, Dragons 17.
Errors | Vodafone Warriors 12, Dragons 9.
Runs | Ben Matulino 16, Sam Tomkins 16, Jonathan Wright 13, Albert Vete 12, Simon Mannering 11, Jacob Lillyman 11, Ken Maumalo 11, Solomone Kata 11, Manu Vatuvei 10, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 10.
Metres gained | Ben Matulino 144, Ken Maumalo 122, Jonathan Wright 114, Albert Vete 106, Manu Vatuvei 105, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 100.
Tackle breaks | Jonathan Wright 8, Solomone Kata 3, Manu Vatuvei 2, Sam Tomkins 2, Ken Maumalo 2.
Off loads | Albert Vete 3, Ben Matulino 2, Sam Tomkins 2.
Tackles | Nathan Friend 43, Simon Mannering 36, Sebastine Ikahihifo 29, Jacob Lillyman 29, Albert Vete 28, Ben Matulino 28, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 25, Chad Townsend 23, Jonathan Wright 22.
Missed tackles | Sebastine Ikahihifo 0, Raymond Faitala-Mariner 0, Sam Tomkins 0, Solomona Kata 0.
RECORD | v PENRITH
Overall | Played 34, Won 15, Drawn 1, Lost 18.
At Pepper Stadium | Played 17, Won 7, Drawn 1, Lost 9.
MILESTONES WATCH 2015
150 NRL Games for Vodafone Warriors | Jacob Lillyman plays his 144th NRL game for the Vodafone Warriors.
150 NRL Tries | Manu Vatuvei has scored 146 tries in 210 games.
50 NRL Tries | Konrad Hurrell 40.
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.
Jacob Lillyman made his 200th NRL appearance on June 27 when he lined up against Canberra; it was his 138th game for the Vodafone Warriors after previously playing 62 games for North Queensland.
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 (all 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.
Bodene Thompson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against Canberra on June 21 after previously playing 49 games for Gold Coast and 36 for Wests Tigers.
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 | When Manu Vatuvei scored against the Sydney Roosters on June 6, he 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).
100 NRL Games (all for Vodafone Warriors) | Shaun Johnson made his 100th NRL appearance when he lined up against the Sydney Roosters on July 19.
250 Home Games in NRL | The Vodafone Warriors played their 250th home game when they faced Cronulla on August 1. Their first 250 home games were split between Mount Smart Stadium (242), Eden Park (6) and Westpac Stadium (2). They won 143 games for a winning strike rate of just over 57.00 per cent.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Pepper Stadium, Penrith
5.30pm, Saturday, August 15
Referees: Ashley Klein and Chris James
1 SAM TOMKINS
2 KEN MAUMALO
3 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 JONATHAN WRIGHT
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 NATHAN FRIEND
10 SAM RAPIRA
11 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 KONRAD HURRELL
15 ALBERT VETE
16 SAM LISONE
17 CHARLIE GUBB
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN
1 WILL SMITH
2 DAVID SIMMONS
3 ISAAH YEO
4 LEWIS BROWN
5 JOSH MANSOUR
6 ISAAC JOHN
7 JAMIE SOWARD
8 SAM McKENDRY
9 JAMES SEGEYARO
10 REAGAN CAMPBELL-GILLARD
11 BRYCE CARTWRIGHT
12 TYRONE PEACHEY
13 ELIJAH TAYLOR (c)
14 TUPOU SOPOAGA
15 JEREMY LATIMORE
16 LEILANI LATU
17 SIKA MANU
18 API KOROISAU
COACH: IVAN CLEARY
BETTING – CHECK OUT ALL THE ODDS WWW.TAB.CO.NZ
Head to head | Vodafone Warriors $3.00, Penrith Panthers $1.35
SKY SPORT 2: Live from 7.00pm NZT (kick-off 7.30pm), Saturday, August 15