Needing a win to stay inside the NRL’s top eight, the Warriors face Manly who have beaten them in seven of their past eight encounters.
Regardless of Manly’s well documented issues off the field, Sunday’s clash against the Warriors is a genuine contender for match of the round.
The Warriors are being touted as the dark horse in a tight playoff race at Mt Smart Stadium, with superstars Shaun Johnson, Manu Vatuvei and Konrad Hurrell powering their dramatic rise on the competition ladder.
Sitting six places below the table-topping Sea Eagles, the Warriors have scored a total of 407 points and could become the premier attacking side by the end of the round.
Manly’s defence may be their strength but they didn’t become the competition leaders without a high-powered attack of their own.
Touted as a side with strike power in all positions, Geoff Toovey’s Sea Eagles certainly have the record to prove it and will head into this one as clear favourites.
Not only have they beaten the Warriors in seven of their past eight encounters, they will look to secure a three-match winning streak and build on their two-point lead on the table.
What’s scary is that they didn’t even have to play their best football to defeat an in-form Dragons side 21-12 last Monday night.
Manly’s devastating left edge, expertly directed by Kiwis five-eighth Kieran Foran and centre Steve Matai, is largely responsible for their success – producing nine tries in their last three games.
The latter has overcome an injury scare to take his place in an unchanged line-up while his battle with Hurrell, who passed concussion tests during the week, is being talked up on both sides of the Tasman.
Needing a win to stay inside the top eight, the Warriors’ dream run hit a speed bump in Brisbane last weekend. They surrendered the lead twice and paid dearly for basic errors as the Broncos triumphed 28-22.
The biggest concern for coach Andrew McFadden will be the five tries they conceded on the right edge, which has resulted in rookie wing David Fusitua being dropped for Ngani Laumape.
Manly know exactly where to hit the Warriors – scoring nine tries through their shaky right edge in their last four encounters – and will look to send the ball Foran’s way when in scoring range.
Both forward packs demand respect from their opposition, but this one will come down to the decision-makers with smaller numbers on their back.
Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart is the man to watch. His distribution skills over the last two weeks have been sublime and he had a hand in almost all of his side’s five tries the last time these sides met.