New Zealand Warriors v Melbourne Storm @ Mount Smart Stadium
Preview - The Melbourne Storm head across the ditch for what is sure to be a tricky test against the New Zealand Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday night. The Storm were at their steely best in Round 1, grinding out a tough 12-6 win at Belmore against a fired up Canterbury outfit. The Storm jumped out to 12-0 after just 10 minutes, before defending their way to victory against a siege of Bulldogs’ attacks on their line in the second half. The Warriors put in a typical rocks and diamonds display as they escaped with a late 26-22 victory over a gallant Knights’ side. The Warriors put in a shocking first 20 minutes, before turning the screws to rack up 20 straight points as they led 20-8 midway through the second half. However, they clocked off for a second straight time, allowing the Knights to score three simple tries and hit the front, before a late try to Ryan Hoffman. The Warriors can ill afford such a hot and cold display against a clinical Melbourne side that won't let the Warriors off the hook.
History - The Storm have won 20, and drawn 2, of their 38 overall encounters against the Warriors. They won both matches in 2016 including a 42-0 demolition of the Warriors in Melbourne on ANZAC Day. Playing in New Zealand won't hold huge fears for the Storm who have won 10 from 19 overall across the ditch.
New Zealand Warriors’ Scouting Report - The Warriors played in patches last week which has been typical of this side over the past five years. There are a few concerns for them coming into this game with Isaac Luke picking up a rib injury against the Knights and failing to come back on to the field. Like Isaac Luke, Simon Mannering has been named in the Warriors’ starting line up, however he must be in some doubt with a neck injury.
Melbourne Storm Scouting Report - The Storm have suffered a huge blow coming into this game with their forward leader, Jesse Bromwich, ruled out with a hand injury. I think the Storm will miss the size and presence of Bromwich against a Warriors pack that will be fired up for a rare Friday night home game. Riley Jacks had a solid debut game at five eight and Craig Bellamy has kept faith in him for this game with Billy Slater still unavailable and Cameron Munster comfortable playing at fullback.
Verdict - Storm by 1-6
I think the Warriors will lift for this game as they usually get up for games against Melbourne, apart from last season. I think playing a rare Friday Night gammon front of their home fans should bring in a large and boisterous crowd which will lift theme side. Whilst the Storm's defence was stout last week against the Bulldogs, I think they will be tested here against a dangerous Warriors’ attack. Jesse Bromwich is a big loss up front and, if the Warriors can get on top in the forwards, I think they can win this game. However I am just not ready to trust the Warriors againsztaside as committed and disciplined and structured as the Storm. I tipped the Storm to win the Minor Premierships tipping against them 2 rounds in a row would be foolish. I think they can frustrate the Warriors into errors and win a close game.