Just when you thought the New Zealand Warriors couldn’t be any more inconsistent, last week happened. Who knows what we’ll get when they host an understrength St George Illawarra Dragons in Waikato. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 6pm (AEST).
The Warriors looked to have turned a corner leading into the representative round with a gritty victory over the Sydney Roosters, defending their line for most of the second half.
They then came out and tore shreds off the Penrith Panthers in the first half last week, going into the break with a 28-6 lead.
What followed was dreadful. They had 30 straight points ran up against them and lost the game by eight in a display of defence that wouldn’t cut it in the Holden Cup.
While the Warriors were – and still will be – without Simon Mannering, that excuse simply doesn’t cut it when your team has the full New Zealand national spine playing.
The Auckland-based side have a lot more than what they showed against Penrith, but doing it against an impressive Dragons defensive outfit may be easier said than done, and as always it’s going to be about Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran.
The Dragons, who were expected to be at the bottom of the table, have surprised plenty this season, and only some tough luck with injuries have seen them drop out of the top four in the last week.
They were top of the table at a point, but have now lost three in a row, against the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks.
While missing Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan is a fair excuse, the Dragons haven’t played any woefully bad footy and there is no shame in losing to three of the best sides in the competition.
The only concern was the Storm, who ran up 44 points against the Red V.
Without Dugan and Widdop, the Dragons have struggled for points and Paul Mcgregor’s men will be keen to address that against the typically defensively weak Warriors.
The Dragons forwards have been strong in the face of adversity and with Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell leading the way, they will be looking to roll the Warriors through the middle.
In team news, the Warriors will be without Solomone Kata, with Ken Maumalo to take his spot. Euan Aitken is also out for the Dragons, with Taane Milne set to make a return to first grade, despite Matt Dufty being named in the reserves for a potential debut.
Interestingly, the Dragons have won 20 of the 25 contests between the sides.
The Dragons might have lost a few on the trot, but they are yet to play any really poor footy. On the other hand, it’s the Warriors – it’s impossible to tip them.
Dragons by 8.
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