The last time these sides met both sides were full of hope and energy as they kicked off their respective seasons in Round One, now heading into this Round 22 clash both sides are out of finals contention and have little to play for except maybe some pride.
Last Time Out
The Warriors hosted defending Premiers Cronulla Sharks in round 21 at Mt Smart Stadium and if they were to have any chance of making the finals they needed to take home the two competition points on offer. The Warriors came out of gates slow and although they responded to the Sharks first two tries with four pointers of their own they always seemed a step or two behind the Premiers. Despite that the score was 14-12 in the 51st minute and the Warriors seemed to have some ascendancy, but as they did the previous week against the Cowboys when the game was in the balance they folded without much of a fight as they have done all season.
The Knights were at home and behind a vocal crowd of over 15,000 secured their third win of the season in a gusty 21-14 victory over the Dragons. Not many had given them hope of winning against the Red Hot Dragons following their big win over Manly but the young Knights had other plans. Boosted by a quick start the Knights were able to lead for the majority of the match and finally showed they know how to close out a game after the Dragons leveled the scores going into the final 20 minutes. Although they missed 63 tackles their last ditch defence saved them on many occasions, coach Nathan Brown said although it was’t his sides best performance he was happy his young side were able to win “in that way”.
How They Win
It’s no secret that to win a NRL game you have to win the battle of the forwards but if Newcastle are to win they’ll need to win the battle on the wings as well.
The Knights v Warriors match always seems to bring the best out of the Warriors wide man, recently departed club legend Manu Vatuvei always saved his best for the Knights scoring 19 tries in 19 matches but in more recent times it’s been David Fusitua causing headaches for the men in Red and Blue crossing the line for 7 tries in the last 2 meetings including a first half hat-trick in round one.
The Knights will be relying again on the support of their home crowd and go forward of the Saifiti twins, if they can repeat their heroics from last week and put up another 351 metres they will go a long way towards laying the platform for the danger men like Ross, Gagai and the Mata’utia brothers to post some points.
For The Warriors if they turn up and play to their ability they win this game, a side boasting Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kerian Foran & Isaac Luke should be too strong for the improving Knights but whether they ‘turn up’ is another question.
Young halfback Mason Lino has been impressive in his first two NRL games but the work rate of the Warriors forwards in recent works has been less than impressive with only three forwards passing the 100 metre mark last week.
Attitude is the key for the Warriors and they’re attitude will likely decide the outcome of this match.
Predicting if the Warriors will turn up is as difficult as predicting the winner of this match, on paper the Warriors should win and win well but on paper the Warriors should be sitting in the top four.
You can count on the Knights coming out firing and giving 100% in front of their home crowd and if their young players can improve again on last weeks performance there’s no reason why they can’t win back to back games for the first time since 2015.
The Warriors have been terrible on the road this season winning just one of nine games and I expect this to continue with Knights winning a close game.
Newcastle have named the same 17 from last week and should be 1-17, Nathan Brown has again resisted the urge to start the Saifiti Twins with Jacob again named on the bench. The Warriors will make one change with second rower Isaiah Papalii coming in for Bodene Thompson for just his second game of the year, whilst Sam Lisone is named on the bench after he was elevated into the starting lineup for Ben Matulino last week.
Knights: 1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jamie Buhrer 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Joe Wardle 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi 15. Luke Yates 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Jack Cogger 19. Sam Stone 20. Brendan Elliot 21. Chanel Mata’utia
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c) 2. David Fusitua 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Mason Lino 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Issac Luke 10. Ben Matulino 11. Isaiah Papalii 12. Bunty Afoa 13. Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14. Ata Hingano 15. Sam Lisone 16. Ligi Sao 17. James Bell 20. Tevita Satae 21. Nathaniel Roache 22. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad