Matt’s Match-ups Rd 25: Raiders V Warriors
Warriors V Raiders
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck © 1.
David Fusitu’a 2.
Peta Hiku 3. Michael Oldfield
Solomone Kata 4. Joseph Leilua
Ken Maumalo 5. Jordan Rapana
Mason Lino 6.
Shaun Johnson 7.
James Gavet 8.
Issac Luke 9.
Josh Hodgson ©
Agnatius Paasi 10.
Adam Blair 11. Sia Soliola
Tohu Harris 12. Elliott Whitehead
Simon Mannering 13. Josh Papalii
Jazz Tevaga 14.
Isaiah Papali’i 15.
#Gerard Beale 17. vs 16.
#Bunty Afoa 16. vs 17. Luke Bateman
Leivaha Pulu 18.
Anthony Gelling 19.
Tevita Satae 20.
Karl Lawton 21.
(Bolded players are the winners of the skin. The extended bench is excluded.)
# Skins altered to pair like players/ positions.
Since being embarrassed by the Panthers in Round 17, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has taken it upon himself to ‘run the extra mile’ for his team. In the past seven rounds he has run for an astounding 1603m, at an average of 229m a game. His lowest return was last week’s 154m, ironically against the Panthers, however he has passed 200m in five of those games, with one of those being an unheard of 338m against the Knights in Round 22.
I think Brad Abbey has improved his game, and seems to be over the ‘yips’. He was unlucky not to get a try on the weekend, but this is a no contest.
It was great to see Nick Cotric return to form on the weekend, with his trade mark tackle busting running. He scored a try he had no right to, due to some lazy Bunnies defenders. He faces off against David Fusitu’a, who has certainly overcome his try scoring drought. He has scored six tries in three weeks, with a hat-trick last week. In fact, if his try scoring trend continues, he will bag four against the Raiders this weekend. This recent haul has returned him to the top of the try scorers list in the NRL. Scoring tries is Winger 101, and therefore his 2018 try scoring tally is the main reason why he wins the skin.
Ken Maumalo is averaging 154m a game this year, but unlike his wingman, he isn’t crossing the stripe, with only five this year. Jordan Rapana might only be averaging 137m a game, but he has 10 tries and five assists. Rapana is also breaking more tackles and offloading more. His involvement and output is better in 2018.
Michael Oldfield has only been back in for a couple of weeks, but a two try haul last week certainly has him in a confident mood. This, added to the hat-trick he scored against the Cowboys, means his try scoring form is good, with five in his last four games. Peta Hiku only got a start last week because Gerard Beale was injured. He has been playing the utility role off the bench the last month. It seems the two have switched around this week, back to the setup the Warriors played earlier this year. Low minutes is the main factor for a Hiku loss here. However, the switch to Beale was due to defensive deficiencies too.
It’s a really tight contest in the No. 4 jerseys. Both Joseph Leilua and Solomona Kata average a tick over 100m a game in 2018. Both average a line break every second game. Kata has nearly 60 more tackles, and better tackle efficiency. However, Leilua has the advantage in try assists (3-2) and tries (14-11). Add to that, in the past three weeks, Leilua has run for nearly 100m more than Kata. I’d say Leilua’s recent form is better, thus giving him the edge.
Both No. 7’s will be goal kicking this week, and both have field goals in 2018. Shaun Johnson has 13 try assists in 17 games with four tries and four field goals. Sam Williams only has seven assists, a single try and two field goals. If winger 101 is scoring tries, then halfback 101 is creating scoring opportunities. By that account, it would suggest Johnson has been approximately twice as good in 2018. I'd argue this skin is won by more than that too.
In seven appearances Mason Lino has three tries, two assists and three forced dropouts; averages 49m a game; and has a tackle efficiency rate of nearly 78 per cent. Blake Austin has five tries, seven assists and five forced dropouts: averages 84m a game: and what is now a much improved 82 per cent tackle efficiency rate. However, as Austin has three times as many games this year, are those figures enough? Thinking back, Austin only received one MOTM performance this year, for his insane match winning 15 minutes against the Dogs. I’m pretty sure Mason Lino was MOTM in at least two of his first three games this year. Austin definitely had one of his better games of the year last week, even if his mid game dance routine infuriates me. While Lino scored a try and looked in quite good touch last week, he has only played one game since Round 19 against the Storm... and therefore his recent form isn’t enough to win the skin. It seems the Raiders may have poached the wrong backup Warriors half though.
Shannon Boyd’s first stint against the Bunnies, and his efforts against the Roosters have been some of the best minutes he has played all year. However, he is struggling to push out decent minutes in his second stints. He wasn’t too happy about being hooked after five minutes into his second stint last week. His output for a starting prop is probably a little under what you want, at 93m and 23 tackles a game. Despite his size, Boyd’s tackle efficiency is 93 per cent, six percentage points more than his opposite number. Agnatius Paasi is turning into a bit of a try sneak by prop standards, having registered his third for the year over the weekend. His 97m a game is only marginally better than Boyd, but averages one less tackle a game at 22. Paasi averages half a metre more per carry, while Boyd’s post contact metres are better. Paasi’s 21 offloads to Boyd's two is the biggest difference between the two players. I’m surprised these numbers are so close to be honest, as I would have said Paasi is outplaying Boyd easily. I’ll give the try sneak a ‘billion dollar bunker’, benefit of the doubt here.
James Gavet had a great start to the year leading into the first clash between the two teams, making 223m and 46 tackles in the first two rounds. This form has continued throughout his 18 games this year, as he still averages 100m a game and 20 tackles a game. Dunamis Lui has been a pretty consistent performer and is averaging 86m and 22 tackles a game. But as your starting prop, these numbers aren’t really good enough. Gavet’s defensive efforts have been stepping up lately too, laying a few big shots on his opposite number. So, better impact and ownership of the game gets the skin here.
I nearly rearranged the entire bench to put Jazz Tevaga against Siliva Havili, as both are hookers turned middle forwards. However, I’ve gone the utility on the bench route as the skins. I'd argue Tevaga has been the Warriors' best forward this year. He has been massive for them in the middle. He averages 81m and 37 tackles a game, at a near 90 per cent efficiency rate. He has 28 offloads too. This is a great contribution off the bench, especially for a guy who has been converted to a new role this year. Emre Guler’s second game was even better than the first. He has looked a first grader from the second he stepped onto the field. He pumped out 117m last week too. He could be a sneaky starting option at prop next year. I’m tempted, but can’t give the skin to the 2018 rookie this week.
Junior Paulo had his best game of the year on the weekend. Paulo pumped out a massive 191m on the weekend. However, his insistence on playing out on the edge like a five-eighth was infuriating. Had he just run hard and straight, I think that 191m is more like 250m. The week before against the Chooks was a good stepping stone for him. Isaiah Papali’I has been one of the Warriors most consistent players all year. He has mostly been playing on the edges, as his 82m and 30 tackles a game suggest. I thought he had more than three tries to his name too. One good game, a season does not make. Paulo needs more than a game or two of good performances to outweigh the poor year he has had.
Bunty Afoa has been very consistent in 2018. He averages high 80’s for metres gained and low 20’s for tackles a game. The Warriors' middles are obviously sharing the workload around evenly. Luke Bateman's defensive efforts are better (28 tackles a game), but his 69m a game is way down. These two players do peform different roles, so which is more important to their side? I'd argue it is Bateman, because his defensive efforts are worth more to the Raiders than Afoa... but that’s not a form guide. In the last fortnight, Afoa has 116m and 36 tackles, while Bateman has 153m and 42 tackles. Recent output gives Bateman the edge.
Josh Hodgson is a massive part of why the Raiders have been winning in recent weeks. However, his personal form involvement was better when he first returned from injury. Isaac Luke - while held together by elastoplast, magic spray, and I’m sure some sort of Maori spirit prayer - is having a career season. He is running again this year, averaging 74m a game, and offloading too, with 24. The New Zealand section of the Warriors spine is combining fantastically well, and that’s a massive reason why they are playing finals footy this year.
Gerard Beale and Peta Hiku have been switched between utility and centre this year. Beale lost his spot due to injury, but don’t be surprised if he in fact switched back this week. His recent form at centre has been good, scoring all three of his tries in the last six appearances. I have praised Siliva Havili all year for his efforts. However, in recent weeks his minutes have been in decline, as has his contribution. Tough call, and while Beale has been injured, Havili’s form has been in decline for a while now.
Josh Papalii added another notch on his belt this past week. He would be banging on Jason Taumalolo’s door for the best lock in the game at the moment. Simon Mannering is a long serving quality player, and deserves all the kudos he gets, but he isn’t in the elite class anymore.
Adam Blair has been reinvigorated by a move onto the edge - a position he hasn’t played since his Storm days. He has even got on the score sheet in recent weeks. However, Blair is still the grubby, unexciting player he has always been. Sia Soliola has always been the opposite of that. He has always played hard but fair. In the last couple of weeks his consistency has paid off. He has been super out on the edge, and really put some sting in his game. He has been running hard and hitting harder.
Tohu Harris returned from injury last week. He was named on the bench, but moved into the starting side on game day. He piled up 161m and 29 tackles on his return. Great effort, but a quality player. You couldn’t ask Elliot Whitehead to do any more than he has done in the past month or so. He has been moved from the edge, to centre, to five-eighth, back to centre and finally back to the edge. His 98m and 28 tackles is a much more Elliot like performance. With Harris having been out long term, this skin goes to Whitehead.
The tally is Warriors 10 and Raiders seven. The Warriors have been a much different side than the ones of the past. Their new breathing circle has them within a breath of finals footy. Can it take them further? The Raiders have been very impressive in recent weeks, and been dubbed the ‘Giant Slayers’. Can they do it for a third week?
Result: Warriors at home, in a clinic (by 12-18).
Plus follow The Greenhouse on Facebook: The Greenhouse Forum
and Twitter: @TheGHRaiders