Newcastle Knights are looking to continue their perfect start to 2019 when they take on the Penrith Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
It wasn’t perfect by any means but the Knights will take some confidence into this match after a gritty win against a very experienced Sharks side last week. It was a defensive battle in the Knights 14-8 victory, with new recruits David Klemmer and Tim Glasby impressing against a strong Cronulla forward pack. Nathan Brown will want to see more in attack, however, with the only difference an Edrick Lee intercept try to win the game.
The Panthers will be fired up after a bad loss to the Eels a week ago. Parramatta were very impressive in the opening round but the Panthers didn’t help their cause with a handful of errors and penalties handing the Eels easy field position. They were better in the second half but they will need to come out ready to play against a Knights side that is sure to show plenty of improvement once again in 2019.
Herman Ese’ese replaces Daniel Saifiti who is out with a knee injury in the only change for the Knights.
Newcastle Knights 21-man squad: 1 Connor Watson, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Hymel Hunt, 4 Jesse Ramien, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Kalyn Ponga, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Danny Levi, 10 James Gavet, 12 Sione Mata’utia, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13 Tim Glasby Interchange: 14 Kurt Mann, 15 Aidan Guerra, 16 Mitchell Barnett, 17 Herman Ese’ese Reserves: 18 Josh King, 19 Jamie Buhrer, 20 Mason Lino, 21 Brodie Jones
Sione Katoa returns to the starting side after overcoming a concussion, pushing Wayde Egan back to the bench and Jarome Luai out of the 17. Frank Winterstein moves onto the bench, replacing Tyrell Fuimaono who has suffered an ankle injury. Reagan Campbell-Gillard has been named in the starting side with Moses Leota on the bench, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers make a late switch as they did in Round One. Hame Sele will start at lock after being cleared of a broken arm.
Penrith Panthers 21-man squad: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Waqa Blake, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 James Fisher-Harris, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Hame Sele Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Frank Winterstein, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Jack Hetherington Reserves: 18 Jarome Luai, 19 Tim Grant, 20 Liam Martin, 21 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
HEAD TO HEAD
The Panthers and Knights faced off twice in 2018, where they split the wins at one apiece. The first was in Round 10 when the Panthers were too good in a 29-18 victory, taking advantage of some average Knights defence on numerous occasions. The Knights got their revenge in Round 23 with a 20-12 victory, the Panthers looking directionless without James Maloney, and the match ending in a sour fashion with four players sin binned after a brawl broke out on the field.
The battle in the halves will be one to watch, with each side boasting a mix of experience and youth, but the less talked about match up that could decide the game will be between David Klemmer and James Tamou. Penrith were dominated by the Eels forwards last week but Tamou arguably had his best performance in a Panthers jumper. The former Origin and Australian representative played an impressive 60 minutes for 133 run metres and was an absolute workhorse in defence with a staggering 56 tackles.
David Klemmer proved he’ll be worth every penny of his new deal in his Knights debut. Playing 65 minutes, he ran for 218 metres and was busy in defence with 33 tackles. Look for both players to back up their strong opening round performances. Whoever wins the battle in the middle of the field and provides their halves with plenty of space could be the difference.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Referee: Dave Munro, Chris Sutton
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers will no doubt be angry after their poor performance last week, but it won’t be easy against a Knights side who showed plenty of fight in their win over the Sharks. If the Panthers can improve their ball control and discipline, they’ll be right in this match, but the Knights in front of a packed Newcastle crowd will be very tough to beat. It will come down to who can dominate through the middle and which halves pair will have the most influence.
Knights by 4