This could be do-or-die for Manly.
The Sea Eagles are in a slide at the worst time of the season because they are still fighting for spot in the top eight. Manly will head across the ditch off back-to-back losses in games they were expected to win.
They come into this off a disappointing 30-16 loss to the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium which was their fourth loss in the past five weeks.
New Zealand’s form has been shocking over the past two months as they come into Round 25 off the back of seven consecutive losses with the past four, including last week’s effort against the Rabbitohs, by 13 points or more.
MANLY’s defence has been shocking the past five weeks and is a big reason they find themselves in a scrap to make the semis when a top four spot looked a real possibility not that long ago.
Trent Barrett’s side has conceded 30 points in consecutive defeats to the Tigers and Bulldogs while the two defeats on the other side of their 36-18 win over Sydney Roosters saw them concede 92 points against the Dragons and Storm respectively.
That isn’t the type of defence you want to carry into the finals because you aren’t likely to last long if you do.
The only saving grace for Manly here could be the fact the NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS have clocked off.
Seven straight losses for Stephen Kearney’s men means they are now just four losses shy of the club record of 11 straight defeats which has happened twice for them in the past five seasons.
It definitely is a year of what could have been for the Warriors who had a few games shot to pieces earlier in the year but didn’t get the job done. If those losses had been wins then they would have had something to play for in the past month or so.
MANLY won’t get a better chance to bounce back into the winners circle and pretty much book themselves a spot in the semis than here.
The Sea Eagles have taken the points between the sides on 12 of the past 13 occasions and have 20 wins out of 32 dating back to 2000.
These sides met back in Round 17 over in Perth and the Warriors raced out to an early 16-nil lead before Manly stormed back to win 26-22. In hindsight it was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for New Zealand as the loss effectively put them on the back foot for the run in to the finals.
We can’t possibly tip the Warriors on their current form, however, the possible return of Shaun Johnson does make them a slightly more attractive proposition.
The exciting half has been absent through injury and if he takes his place in the side then surely the Warriors will be fired up to give the Mt Smart Stadium faithful something to cheer about.
Kieran Foran is in some doubt so punters should watch for the official team lists closer to kick-off to see if he takes his place for the home side.
Manly have everything to play for and going up against a side they have an excellent strike rate against, we are putting money on them to get back to their winning ways.
NEW ZEALAND / MANLY HALF-FULL DOUBLE