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2021 NRL Round 10 Preview, Tigers Vs Knights

Brendan Wood previews the clash between the Wests Tigers and the Newcastle Knights to kick-off Magic Round. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Date: Friday May 14th, Time: 6pm AEST

Tigers Team

1. Daine Laurie
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Adam Doueihi
4. Joseph Leilua
5. Tommy Talau
6. Moses Mbye
7. Luke Brooks
8. James Tamou
9. Jacob Liddle
10. Alex Twal
11. Luke Garner
12. Luciano Leilua
13. Joe Ofahenghaue
14. Jock Madden
15. Shawn Blore
16. Alex Seyfarth
17. Thomas Mikaele
18. Michael Chee Kam
19. Jake Simpkin
20. Stefano Utoikamanu
21. Tom Amone

Team Changes

IN: Jock Madden, Tommy Talau, Shawn Blore, Tom Amone
OUT: Zac Cini

Knights Team

1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Starford To’a
3. Enari Tuala
4. Bradman Best
5. Brayden Musgrove
6. Kurt Mann
7. Phoenix Crossland
8. David Klemmer
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Daniel Saifiti
11. Tyson Frizell
12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
13. Mitchell Barnett
14. Connor Watson
15. Jacob Saifiti
16. Sauaso Sue
17. Brodie Jones
18. Hymel Hunt
19. Josh King
20. Tex Hoy
21. Simi Sasagi

Team Changes

IN: Hymel Hunt, Josh King, Simi Sasagi, Tex Hoy
OUT: Gehamat Shibasaki

Referee: Grant Atkins

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Tigers

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Tommy Talau returns from suspension on the wing, taking the place of Zac Cini who has been dropped. In an interesting swap Adam Doueihi moves to the centres, with Moses Mbye moving to five-eighth. Jacob Liddle returns to the starting side at hooker, with Jake Simpkin dropping out of the 17 and Jock Madden grabbing a bench spot. Shawn Blore has been named to play his first game of the year off the bench, replacing Stefano Utoikamanu who drops to the reserves.

The Tigers are coming off a poor defensive effort against the Titans, leaking 36 points and eventually go down by eight. The week prior was a stark contrast, holding the Dragons to just eight points in a 16-8 win. Finding consistency in defence will be key to the Tigers stringing some wins together.

Knights

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Not many changes for the Knights, with Lachlan Fitzgibbon starting in the second row, Mitch Barnett moving to lock and Connor Watson moving back to the bench. They go into this game with the same 17 that got a gritty comeback win against the Raiders in Wagga Wagga last week.

As mentioned, the Knights showed some determination to grind out a tough 24-16 win over the Raiders, after trailing 16-0 at halftime. The win was the perfect way to respond after copping a 38-4 hammering at the hands of the Roosters two weeks ago. They’ll be looking to string together back to back wins for the first time since the opening two rounds of the season.

PREVIEW

The opening game of Magic Round should see plenty of points scored, with both the Tigers and Knights struggling to maintain consistency in defence this year. The Knights bring a renewed sense of confidence back to their side which could be danger signs for the Tigers, who are in the middle of an identity crisis. Tigers coach Michael Maguire has made big changes this week, but will the change in line-up bring the magic back in time for Magic Round?

When it comes to magic, there are few players in the NRL that fit that description better than Kalyn Ponga. He was instrumental in orchestrating the Knights come-from-behind win last week. Everything the Knights do in attack will flow through Ponga, especially with Mitchell Pearce still on the sidelines and his replacement Blake Green now out injured as well. Last season, he tore the Tigers to shreds in the two games they met, propelling the Knights over the 40 point mark on both occasions.

For the Tigers, time is running out for them to make something of this season. Again, their defence will be a strong focus if they are to get back on track. In a perplexing move to try and remedy this, Michael Maguire has moved arguably his best player this year, Adam Doueihi, out to the centres and replaced him in the halves with Moses Mbye, who has struggled for form all season. While it’s unclear how long this move will last, expect the Tigers to still seek out Doueihi in attack. Luke Brooks will be expected to take the reins and lean on Daine Laurie to create some spark with his Ponga-esque footwork and elusiveness he’s shown in his young career.

KEY STAT

The Tigers beat the Knights earlier this year 24-20, however the Knights were without Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best on that occasion. Last year, the Knights won both meetings between these sides easily and cracked 40 points both times, outscoring the Tigers 86-28 across those games.

PREDICTION

Knights by 10.

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