New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans Saturday, March 17, 3:05pm (AEDT) Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
The Warriors recorded the upset win over the Rabbitohs in Perth, but the challenge for them will be to back it up at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday. The Warriors spine of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Green, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke finally clicked into gear and will need to play consistent football this year if the Warriors are to shake their under-achievers tag. Meanwhile, the Titans will travel across the Tasman on a high after their last-minute win over the Raiders. They might not have the talent of some other NRL squads, but they are one of the grittiest sides in the competition, with a willingness to play for 80 minutes. It’s a tough challenge second-up, but you can never be certain of which Warriors side will show up.
FormThe Warriors were one of the surprise packets of the opening round with a big 32-20 win over South Sydney in Perth as a 6.5-point underdog. Shaun Johnson was brilliant while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was back to his best. The game went over the total. The Titans trailed the entire game against the Raiders after falling behind early 18-0 but came roaring back to win in the final minute of the game 30-28 on the back of a Konrad Hurrell try. The Titans jumped 3.5-point home underdogs while the game went well over with the highest total of the round.
Key MatchupShaun Johnson v Ashley Taylor: Johnson was sensational in the win over the Rabbitohs in Round 1 and was extremely unlucky not to poll any Dally M points. He played injured in 2017 and looked back to his running best against the Rabbitohs, making two line-breaks and setting up two tries as well. Ashley Taylor polled 3 Dally M points in a man-of-the-match performance against the Raiders, setting up four tries in his side’s thrilling 30-28 win. Taylor had 29 try-assists in 2017 and looks on track to better that if Round 1 is anything to go by. The Wolf loves watching Johnson and Taylor play and is hoping for a high-scoring affair in Auckland.
Stats That Matter– New Zealand hold a 15-7 all-time advantage over the Gold Coast, winning 13 of the last 14. – Six of the last seven wins have been by 8 or more with 10 of the last 11 all topping 40 points. – The Warriors are 13-20 ATS in their last 33 at Mt Smart with a 20-13 over record. – As a favourite of more than a converted try at the ground they are 5-10 ATS with an 11-4 over record while they are 9-15 ATS with a 17-7 over record after conceding more than 20. – Since 2013, the Titans are an excellent 34-18 ATS interstate with a 22-13 ATS (21-14 over) when an interstate underdog of 6.5 or more (with 12 outright wins and a POT of 62%). – The Titans are 10-5 ATS as an interstate underdog off a win with a 10-5 over record.
Final ThoughtsThe Wolf is expecting the Warriors to win the contest, but the 8.5 start for the Titans appears to be too generous. Garth Brennan’s men showed plenty of fight in their come-from-behind win over the Raiders and the backdoor cover is always a possibility when the Titans are playing. Since 2013, the Titans are an excellent 34-18 ATS interstate and should be able to stay within 8 points of the hot-and-cold Warriors.
How It’s Shaping UpNew Zealand by 4
Recommended BetsBest: Gold Coast +8.5 ($1.91) Value: Gold Coast +8.5 & Over 44.5 ($3.70) First Tryscorer: David Fusitua ($10)