It's 8th vs 9th and the Warriors once again grace Friday Night Football, and aren't we all salivating at the prospect. Ray Warren will be looking over the names on our team sheet with sheer terror, while we'll get to hear Gus ramble on about suburban grounds and Benji Marshall. In all seriousness though, I don't think the NRL could have booked a better game in this Origin/Bye hit weekend - and who could forget the last time we traveled to Sydney to play the Tigers? Krisnan Inu hasn't forgotten, though it seems he has been...
Recent Form: Both these teams come into this one on the back of some good recent form. The Tigers have won their past three, while the Warriors notched up their first back-to-back wins of the season last weekend. Having said that, the Tigers’ wins came over the bottom three teams in the competition, and were a bee's dick away from a loss to the Titans two weeks ago. I feel the bye will have been a positive for Sheens and his men in a season that has not at all gone to plan. Still, a win is a win and they've built some much needed momentum.
The Warriors by contrast have had three bruising encounters against quality sides, and will have to cope with a short turnaround and another trip to Sydney. I was at Mt Smart on Saturday, and while happy to walk away with the two points, I remain worried about our defence. Fullback issues aside, we're leaking far too many points - only the Eels have conceded more! I wasn't at all confident watching us defend inside our 'red zone', and I felt the Roosters forwards again got one up on our pack.
Players to Watch: State of Origin has been kind to the Warriors, with no players being rested this weekend. Konrad Hurrell's name has been popular in league circles this week, and it isn't hard to see why. The Kondom rampaged his way to a double last weekend, and showed real pace to outrun Minichiello. A great prospect no doubt - I'd still like to see him occasionally carry the ball in two hands, and look to bring his winger into play.
The fullback turnstile continues, and all eyes will again be on Glen Fisiiahi to see whether he can replicate his Vulcans form in first grade. In possibly one of the biggest cases of white line fever ever seen, he has scored 18 tries in 8 games. Most of us will be paying much closer attention to his work on defence however – let's hope he's been expelled from the 'Krisnan Inu school of attitude and application'.
The Tigers will be hoping it's the Benji Marshall show in the absence of captain Robbie Farah. Benji has had an indifferent start to the year, but it's his new partner at 5/8th that concerns me. Chris Lawrence was unlucky to miss out on an Origin spot and will be out to prove a point. He runs beautiful lines and has developed an excellent combination with Marshall over the years. If these two get going, it will be a long night for the Warriors. Tom Humble is an interesting, if not eyebrow raising, selection at hooker - though Tim Sheens isn't exactly known for his textbook selections.
My prediction: Anything is possible here, and for a real prediction - open your wallet and toss a coin. I'd like to think that after a couple of good wins against decent opposition that we'd come into this and continue that form. Unfortunately, I don't think we're at that consistent stage yet. Friday night football, travelling away from home with a short turnaround and the prospect of a boisterous Leichhardt crowd spells trouble for the Warriors. The Tigers have had the week off to prepare for Farah's absence. Our defence is still a big worry, and I don't back us to outscore the Tigpies. If the Warriors turn up the way we did against the Storm and Broncos, then anything is possible. Whether we will or not, is another story. Tigers 34 - 20 Warriors.