Melbourne Storm v Vodafone Warriors
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Tuesday, April 25, 7.00pm
The Melbourne Storm and Vodafone Warriors meet again in the annual Anzac Day clash at AAMI Park, and there is plenty on the line for both sides.
Following Kieran Foran’s debut for his new club in round five, the Vodafone Warriors’ back-to-back wins were snapped in a hard-fought 8-20 loss to the Raiders in Canberra. With a 3-4 record, the Vodafone Warriors will be motivated to even the ledger with a statement win over Melbourne.
Meanwhile, the Storm rebounded from a bitter 2-11 defeat by the Cronulla Sharks, holding on for a slim 30-26 victory over the Manly Sea Eagles at Lottoland in their last outing. While there’s been high scrutiny on Melbourne’s ball handling to start the season, their priority will be to reassert their league-leading defence against an unpredictable Vodafone Warriors.
With impending selection for the upcoming Australia-New Zealand Anzac Test, it’s also an opportunity for several key players to press their claims.
Why the Storm can win: The Storm are 6-1 and always find a way to win close games when things are going in their favour. Despite leading the NRL with the worst error rate after six rounds with 77 errors, Melbourne has set the benchmark for the competition with itsr trademark resilient defence. However, after exploding out of the gates to score four tries for an early 18-0 lead after 20 minutes, the Storm conceded 26 points against Manly. It is just the second time in the past two seasons they have leaked 26 points and only the third time they’ve suffered more than 20 points scored against them in that same time. Leading 30-16, Melbourne managed to hold on for the four-point win and has enjoyed a 10-day turnaround after a tough schedule to start the season after challenging road trips to Sydney (twice) and New Zealand. With a lengthy period of time in preparation for Anzac Day, coach Craig Bellamy will ensure his side is well-rested and ready for another balanced performance in attack and defence, similar to last year’s 42-0 demolition of the Vodafone Warriors last year.
Why the Vodafoine Warriors can win: The Vodafone Warriors' characteristic ad lib style has often troubled Melbourne in the past. The two sides have already met in round two – before Foran’s club debut – in Auckland this season and, despite the Storm grinding a 26-10 win, the Vodafone Warriors proved to be a handful as they gained the early ascendency with a 10-6 lead after 20 minutes and trailed 12-10 at half-time before eventually succumbing. In his three games for the Vodafone Warriors, Kieran Foran’s provision of structure gives the team greater balance in attack and will be crucial against the clinical Storm. The Vodafone Warriors are an improved side with Foran who steered the club to wins over the Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels before pushing the Canberra Raiders to the limit. The Vodafone Warriors and Raiders were deadlocked in an 8-8 stalemate with 20 minutes to go before the home side powered away for a 12-point victory. This week also sets up as a possible audition for the off-contract star Foran who has been speculated as a possible signing for Melbourne next year. If Foran and halves partner Shaun Johnson can navigate the Vodafone Warriors to a more consistent 80-minute performance than their round two loss, an upset is on the cards.
History: Played 39; Storm 21; Warriors 16; Drawn 2. The Vodafone Warriors are Melbourne’s trademark bogey side as history shows. However, the Vodafone Warriors have beaten the Storm only once in their past five matches with Melbourne winning the past three contests. The Vodafone Warriors have claimed three victories out of seven trips to AAMI Park – their last win in Melbourne came in round eight in 2014 in a 16-10 scoreline.
What are the odds: Sportsbet reports triple the number of individual bets on the Storm and triple the money as well. Having said that, Melbourne 1-12 is the best backed option in the winning margin and there's been a bit of support for the Vodafone Warriors at the line. The New Zealand TAB has the Vodafone Warriors at $3.50 head-to-head, Melbourne at $1.27. Click here for all the odds.
Melbourne Storm | Billy Slater; Suliasi Vunivalu, Will Chambers, Cheyse Blair, Josh Addo-Carr; Ryley Jacks, Cooper Cronk; Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith (c), Jordan McLean; Felise Kaufusi, Kenneath Bromwich; Dale Finucane. Interchange: Christian Welch, Tim Glasby, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Cameron Munster, Young Tonumaipea, Joe Stimson, Mark Nicholls, Tui Kamikamica.
Vodafone Warriors: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Ken Maumalo; Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson; James Gavet, Issac Luke, Jacob Lillyman; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange (from): Nathaniel Roache, Ligi Sao, Sam Lisone, Ben Matulino, Bunty Afoa, Mafoa’aeata Hingano (Charlie Gubb and Mason Lino move out of original extended bench).
Match officials: Ben Cummins, Dave Munro. Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea.
Televised: SKY Sport - live coverage from 6.30pm. Fox League – live coverage from 7.00pm.
How we see it: It will be an absorbing contest between the two sides in another emotional Anzac Day affair. With the Storm and Vodafone Warriors to the rise to the occasion, several stars will be key to victory, particularly in the halves. After three matches with the Vodafone Warriors and last week’s loss, Foran will be motivated to demonstrate his superstar worth with a landmark performance. Issac Luke’s effort at dummy-half in opposition to Cameron Smith will also be key and it will be thrilling to watch Roger Tuivasa-Sheck go toe-to-toe with fellow fullback Billy Slater. Ultimately, the Storm’s forward pack presents very few flaws (if any) and will provide the difference between the two sides.
- This was first published on www.nrl.com