Richie Barnett on league
Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Warriors may struggle to beat in-form Sea Eagles

Glenn Stewart of the Eagles. Photo / Getty Images
Glenn Stewart of the Eagles. Photo / Getty Images

The Roosters, Rabbitohs and Storm might loom as favourites for this year's title but I would suggest the Warriors would rather play any of those three this weekend than Manly.

There is something about the Sea Eagles that the Warriors struggle with and it's reflected in the stats.

They have won only one-third of matches against Manly in their history (the second-worst winning record against NRL teams) and only two of the past 10.

It doesn't mean they can't win on Sunday. Playing at Gosford instead of Manly's fortress of Brookvale will help but they will have to be on their game for every second of the match because the home side will be at them the entire time.

Manly have big-game players with big-game experience and they will easily shrug off the attention of the Asada investigators this week.

Earlier this season it was said they were an ageing outfit, which they are, but they are still incredibly effective and the returns from injury of Brett Stewart and Glenn Stewart have played a big part in that. They also have the best backline in the competition and two intelligent and competitive halves who are very mature for their age.

The way Kieran Foran will focus the attack on Manly's left is quite different to how Daly Cherry-Evans will organise things on the right.

The Sea Eagles can attack from anywhere on the park and they are a bit different to other sides in that they always attack the line with more than one option. They rarely take the ball with one-out runners.

The key for the Warriors this weekend will be their defence. When they are on-song, they can tear apart any defence in the competition but Manly's aggressive defensive screen will give them little time and space to operate. That's why their defence and their kicking game are critical.

At least the Warriors should be in the right head-space. There is no question they were off their game against the Sharks and it's possible they were distracted and starting to believe some of the hype around them. But they know what they will come up against with Manly and they also know how damaging another loss will be for their top-eight chances.

- NZ Herald

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