Ben Francis: Warriors face tough run home towards NRL playoffs

OPINION: A massive two months await the NZ Warriors, as they try to claw their way into finals contention for the second consecutive season. 

With eight games remaining, the Auckland-based side sit 12th on the NRL ladder with six wins, nine losses and a draw - three points outside the top eight. 

Last season, the Warriors finished with 32 competition points, but 27 would've been enough for them to play finals football. In 2017, the magic number was 30 and the year before was 27.

With that in mind, the Warriors would realistically need to win six of their remaining eight games, which is a tough ask, as all their remaining games are against teams above them in the standings. 

Ben Francis: Warriors face tough run home towards NRL playoffs

Currently, the Warriors have only beaten two teams above them in the standings - a 30-10 defeat of the Penrith Panthers (who were on a six-game losing streak at the time) and a controversial 24-20 win over the Origin-depleted Newcastle Knights.

There is an even split between home and away games, with the Warriors' record in 2019 including 3-4 at home and 3-1-4 on the road, although you could argue the Warriors have been better away from Auckland. 

For any team, this would be a gruelling run home and while the Warriors have been excellent in several areas, they will desperately need to improve in others if they realistically want to qualify for the playoffs. 

They have scored 50 tries this season, averaging 18 points per game, while they have let in 54 tries, conceding 20 points per game. 

They do tend to rely on defence, as they've made the most number of tackles this year with 5757. 

The Warriors season could be all-but over in a couple of weeks, depending on the outcome of their next few games.

Several players, including Ken Maumalo, Jazz Tevaga and Peta Hiku, have played out of their skin this season, and hopefully, the influential performance of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck against the Broncos can inspire the rest of the team.

Otherwise, coach Stephen Kearney will be fielding more questions about their focus on 2020. 

Having picked them to finish in the top eight at the start of the season, the right thing would be to stand by my pick and back them to do the unexpected. 

The Warriors run home is:

Round 19 v Sharks (H) 

 

Head-to-head: Played 38; Sharks 22 wins, Warriors 16 wins

Sharks 2019 home record: 4-3

Sharks 2019 away record: 3-6

Last time met: The Sharks claimed an 18-15 win over the Warriors in Auckland last season, but the match-winning try was scored off a forward pass. 

Stat: The match will be the first time Shaun Johnson has faced the Warriors since leaving the club and the southern Sydney club have beaten their opponents in their last four encounters.

Guess who scored the game-winning try last time the Warriors beat the Sharks? 

Sharks have beaten the Warriors in their last four outings.

Round 20 v Eels (A)

 

Head-to-head: Played 39, Won 18, Lost 21

Eels 2019 home record: 6-2

Eels 2019 away record: 2-5

Last time met: THe Warriors secured a 24-14 win at ANZ Stadium last season - without captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who was on baby watch. 

Stat: The match will be the Warriors' first at BankWest Stadium

Round 21 v Raiders (H)

 

Head-to-head: Played 40, Won 19, Lost 21

Raiders 2019 home record: 5-3

Raiders 2019 away record: 4-3

Last time met: Simon Mannering played his 300th NRL match, as the Warriors scraped to a 20-16 win last season.

Stat: Both teams have a 4-4 split in their last eight meetings, although the Warriors have won the last two meetings. 

Round 22 v Sea Eagles (H)

 

Head-to-head: Played 32, Won 9, Lost 24

Sea Eagles 2019 home record: 5-3

Sea Eagles 2019 away record: 4-4

Last time met: The Sea Eagles claimed their first win of the season with a 46-12 drubbing of the Warriors in Christchurch, back in round three. 

Stat: The Warriors last beat the Sea Eagles in Auckland in 2013. 

Round 23 v Roosters (A)

 

Head-to-head: Played 40, Won 22, Lost 17, Drawn 1

Roosters 2019 home record: 5-2

Roosters 2019 away record: 5-3

Last time met: The Roosters kept the Warriors scoreless in a 32-0 hiding last season - the first time the Warriors had been held scoreless at home since 2009.

Stat: Despite the drubbing in their last encounter, the Warriors have beaten the Roosters in four of their last five outings. 

Round 24 v Sharks (H)

 

Round 25 v Rabbitohs (H)

 

Head-to-head: Played 33, Won 19, Lost 23

Rabbitohs 2019 home record: 6-2

Rabbitohs 2019 away record: 5-3

Last time met: Cody Walker scored four tries, as the Bunnies claimed a come-from-behind 28-24 win over the Warriors in round five.  

Stat: A similar stat to the Sea Eagles one, but the Warriors haven't beaten the Bunnies in Auckland since 2012, with their only other win during that time coming in Perth last year.

Round 26 v Raiders (A)

 

Ben Francis is a Newshub online sports producer.

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