Easter Monday kicks off in Auckland when the New Zealand Warriors host Newcastle Knights in round 4 of the 2016 National Rugby League premiership.
Andrew McFadden is a coach under pressure as the Warriors look to snap an eleven game losing streak against last year’s wooden spooners. A loss to the Knights may end his forty-six match reign at the Auckland based club.
Newcastle on the other hand showed in a ten minute period last week that they won’t be any walkover.
An intense battle awaits.
LAST TIME OUT
On Saturday afternoon Newcastle were in trouble early as Canberra shot out to a 16-6 lead at the break. Either the wheels fell off the Raiders or the Knights stepped up a gear. Whatever your interpretation was, the Knights scored three tries in eight minutes to draw level and then take the lead with the Hunter Stadium faithful in full voice. Poor discipline cost them victory, something coach Nathan Brown will be looking for improvement coming into this weekend’s trip across the Tasman.
In their first home outing of 2016, New Zealand Warriors were competitive against the unbeaten Storm. Like the Knights, they too trailed at half time to be in the contest before drawing level at 14-all just after the hour. The Warriors are a side down on confidence and that showed in the final eighteen minutes as the experience Storm side without Billy Slater closed out the game 21-14. Fans are hoping to return to Mount Smart on Monday to see their side win for the first time since July 12, 2015.
A good battle at fullback awaits when Kiwi International Roger Tuivasa-Sheck takes on Dane Gagai. Just like Sam Tomkins, RTS hasn’t quite found his feed with the ‘Warriors’ style of play. This week could be the week that the former Rooster breaks through with an outstanding performance. Dane Gagai continues to be the biggest attacking weapon among the backs. His influence on the game could sway victory to the visitors.
The biggest battle will be in the halves. Jeff Robson and Shaun Johnson have polar opposite attributes and they will need to be at their best to get on top of Trent Hodkinson and Jarrod Mullen. Mullen will be buoyed by his performance in game 200 last week as his combination with the tactician Hodkinson helped Newcastle salvage a draw last weekend. Robson and Johnson still have a little bit of work to build their partnership in the halves. Johnson is one of the best play makers in the game, Robson one of the most experienced traveled halves.
Like with multiple games this weekend there’s no clear cut winner.
New Zealand Warriors hold the slight advantage of being at home and having won the last game these two sides contested, 24-20 at Mount Smart Stadium. A concern is no Isaac Luke or Manu Vatuvei. We know how passionate Luke is, something the Warriors could benefit from.
Newcastle’s first two away games were nothing to write home about. They rallied well after being thrashed by South Sydney and there were positive signs if they can improve their discipline they will earn their first full points of the year. Hodkinson and Mullen might just be the difference if the Knights are to win.
Knights by 2
Warriors v Newcastle Knights, Mt Smart Stadium, 2pm (AEDT) Monday
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2 Tuimoala Lolohea 3 Blake Ayshford 4 Solomone Kata 5 Jonathan Wright 6 Shaun Johnson 7 Jeff Robson 8 Jacob Lillyman 9 Jazz Tevaga 10 Ben Matulino 11 Bodene Thompson 12 Ryan Hoffman (C) 13 Simon Mannering Interchange: 14 Charlie Gubb 15 Sam Lisone 16 Konrad Hurrell 17 Albert Vete
Knights: 1 Dane Gagai 2 Nathan Ross 3 Sione Mata’utia 4 Pat Mata’utia 5 Cory Denniss 6 Jarrod Mullen 7 Trent Hodkinson 8 Sam Mataora 9 Tyler Randell 10 Korbin Sims 11 Jacob Saifiti 12 Robbie Rochow 13 Jeremy Smith Interchange 14 Danny Levi 15 Mickey Paea 16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon 17 Pauli Pauli