Vodafone Warriors v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

8.00pm, Friday, June 23

 

Vodafone Warriors standoff Kieran Foran and Canterbury-Bankstown wing Brett Morris have been ruled out of tomorrow night's 16th-round NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium (8.00pm kick-off).

The Vodafone Warriors were optimistic Foran would be able to play after he left the field with a thigh injury in the club's 34-12 win over Gold Coast on June 10.

However, along with wing Manu Vatuvei, he is one of the two players dropped out of the 21 as required 24 hours before the game.

Foran was given every chance to play tomorrow but will now aim to line up against his old Manly side in Perth on Saturday, July 1. It means Ata Hingano, who replaced Foran and scored a try against the Titans, is set to start at standoff tomorrow night.

Bulldogs coach Des Hasler declared Morris a non-started earlier today. He didn't travel to Auckland after New South Wales lost to Queensland last night but his team-mates David Klemmer and Josh Jackson are both poised to back up 48 hours after Origin II.

The Vodafone Warriors are facing Canterbury-Bankstown at Mount Smart Stadium for the first time since 2012. It so happens encounters with the Bulldogs haven't been regular anywhere for some time.

Until this season, the two clubs had met home and away in the same year just once since 2009. That was in 2014 and even then the Vodafone Warriors' 'home' ground was Eden Park.

The last time the two teams met at Mount Smart was in the third round in 2012 when the Bulldogs prevailed 32-18. Since then they've played six times at five different grounds - Westpac Stadium (2013 and 2016), Eden Park (2014), Waikato Stadium (2014), ANZ Stadium (2015) and Forsyth Barr Stadium (2017).

The Bulldogs and the Vodafone Warriors were also matched up just once in 2010 and 2011.

After 14 games each in 2017 the two protagonists sit level on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder on 14 points with just 24 differential points between them.

Both sides come off a bye last week, having gained pressure-relieving wins in round 14, with the Vodafone Warriors disposing of the Gold Coast Titans 34-12 and the Bulldogs upsetting the St George Illawarra Dragons 16-2.

Vodafone Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has welcomed hooker Nathaniel Roache back onto the bench while Solomone Kata is away on bereavement leave in Tonga following the sudden death of his older brother this week.

That means David Fusitu'a reverts to the centres while rookie Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is named on the wing.

For the Bulldogs, livewire standoff Josh Reynolds is a huge inclusion for Des Hasler's side, with his return from a hamstring injury while Matt Frawley shifts from the No 6 jersey to the interchange. 

 

Why the Vodafone Warriors can win: They have shown they can really turn it on in attack this year when they win the battle in the middle, and they come into round 16 off the back of a showing against the Titans where they made seven line breaks and ran in six tries, doing so while achieving an 86 per cent completion rate. The Bulldogs on the other hand have the NRL's worst attack. They haven't managed to score more than 24 points in a game this year, have been held to 12 or less on six occasions and across the whole season average just 13.8 points per game. If the hosts can manage more than four tries it's unlikely the Bulldogs will foot it with them.

 

Why the Bulldogs can win: While their struggles with the ball are obvious, if the Bulldogs can defend like they did in their last match against the Dragons they will win most games regardless. Against a team which headed into that match averaging 22.6 points per game to be among the competition's best attacking outfits, the Bulldogs scrambled valiantly on both edges of the field to protect their line with their only points leaked coming via a penalty goal. You won't lose many games in the NRL if you don't let the other team score tries.‌‌

 

The history: Played 35; Vodafone Warriors 13; Bulldogs 20; Drawn 2. The overall record sits in the Bulldogs' favour and their recent run against the Vodafone Warriors makes for nice reading for them as well, with six wins from their last seven meetings, including a 24-12 win against the Kiwi side in Dunedin earlier this year. Travelling to New Zealand for this match will hold little fear for the Dogs, who have won 15 of 24 competitive games in the country, stretching across five different venues.

 

What are the odds: In the head-to-head stakes, the Vodafone Warriors are $1.50 favourites to win, the Bulldogs at $2.45. Go to www.tab.co.nz for all the odds.

 

Teams:

Vodafone Warriors | Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c); Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Blake Ayshford, David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo; Mafoa'aeata Hingano, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman; Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Bunty Afoa, James Gavet, Ligi Sao.

Players cut: Kieran Foran, Manu Vatuvei.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs | William Hopoate; Kerrod Holland, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Marcelo Montoya; Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye; Aiden Tolman, Michael Lichaa, James Graham (c); Josh Jackson, Adam Elliot; David Klemmer. Interchange: Sam Kasiano, Danny Fualalo, Greg Eastwood, Matt Frawley, Francis Tualau, Asipeli Fine, Raymond Faitala-Mariner.

Players cut: Brett Morris, one TBC.

Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant referee: Peter Gough. Sideline officials: Belinda Sleeman and Chris McMillan. Review official: Steve Chiddy. Senior review official: Luke Patten.

 

Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6.00pm (AEST). SKY Sports - Live coverage from 7.30pm (NZT).

BUY TICKETS NOW | VODAFONE WARRIORS v CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN, MOUNT SMART STADIUM, FRIDAY, JUNE 23 (8.00PM KICK-OFF)

In the head-to-head stakes on the New Zealand TAB, the Vodafone Warriors are $1.50 favourites, the Bulldogs at $2.45. Go to www.tab.co.nz for full odds.

 

In the head-to-head stakes on the New Zealand TAB, the Vodafone Warriors are $1.50 favourites, the Bulldogs at $2.45. Go to www.tab.co.nz for full odds.