Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney is set to use an unchanged side for the St Patrick’s Day NRL clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (5.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Suzuki).
He has retained the same starting line-up as well as the same four interchange forwards who guided the Vodafone Warriors to a 32-20 win over South Sydney last Saturday, the club’s first success in Perth in 10 encounters in 22 years.
Also included on the extended bench are the same four players – Jazz Tevaga, Anthony Gelling, Agnatius Paasi and Mason Lino – who were dropped off before the final 17 was confirmed for the match at Perth Stadium.
“What we achieved in Perth was certainly pleasing after the players had worked really hard in the preseason,” said Kearney.
“The result there brought a sense of relief and also a sense of confidence in the way the players went about executing the game plan.
“But for us it’s now all about this week and preparing well to give us the best chance of performing well on Saturday.”
The first home match of the season gives the Vodafone Warriors an opportunity to open a campaign with back-to-back wins for only the third time in 24 seasons since entering the competition in 1995. The first was in 2007 when they beat Parramatta 34-18 and Brisbane 24-14 while in their first outings in 2009 they accounted for Parramatta 26-18 and Manly-Warringah 26-24.
The Gold Coast clash on Saturday is the feature attraction in a triple header on a game day rich in Irish flavour as the Vodafone Warriors use the occasion to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. One of the features off the field will be the creation of a pop-up Irish bar known as the Simon O’Manner Inn.
The man after whom the bar is named – veteran second rower Simon Mannering – is again missing from the squad as he recovers from a shoulder injury he picked up in the 20-14 trial win over the Titans on the Sunshine Coast on February 24.
The Vodafone Warriors kept errors to a minimum in their Perth victory – just six in total – in achieving an 80 per cent competition rate (28 from 35 sets).
Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck produced two try assists and two line break assists plus two outstanding try saves. He made 111 metres while Ken Maumalo (155), Peta Hiku (119), Issac Luke (114), Tohu Harris (132) and interchange forward Bunty Afoa (141). Shaun Johnson (99), Isaiah Papali’i (97), James Gavet (93), Ligi Sao (93) and Leivaha Pulu (92) were just short of three figures.
Afoa had the most post-contact metres (63) of any player on the field and also produced 27 tackles without a miss in his 47 minutes on the field.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v GOLD COAST TITANS
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
5.00pm, Saturday, March 17, 2018
Referees: Adam Gee and Gavin Reynolds
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 DAVID FUSITU’A
3 PETA HIKU
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 BLAKE GREEN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 ADAM BLAIR
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I
12 TOHU HARRIS
13 LIGI SAO
14 SAM COOK
15 LEIVAHA PULU
16 SAM LISONE
17 BUNTY AFOA
18 ANTHONY GELLING
20 JAZZ TEVAGA
21 AGNATIUS PAASI
22 MASON LINO
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY