Julian Vella previews this Sunday afternoon clash between the Newcastle Knights and Wests Tigers at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle.
Newcastle Knights Vs Wests Tigers
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Date: Sunday 4:00pm AEDT
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Knights: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Enari Tuala 6. Jake Clifford 7. Adam Clune 8. David Klemmer 9. Chris Randall 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 15. Mitchell Barnett 16. Leo Thompson 17. Jirah Momoisea 18. Mathew Croker 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Tex Hoy 21. Simi Sasagi 22. Brayden Musgrove 23. Dylan Lucas 24. Daniel Saifiti
Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has unsurprisingly named an unchanged side from last week’s upset win over the heavily fancied Sydney Roosters. The experiment of moving utility-man Kurt Mann to lock looks to have been a good move, with Mann offering a ball-playing option in the middle, whilst he pulled off a great tackle on Jared Waerea-Hargreaves which forced an error.
Newcastle still have a host of players unavailable due to injury, but they have named their NSW Origin prop Daniel Saifiti in the extended line-up in jersey No.24. although early reports suggest he is only an outside chance of playing. Lachlan Fitzgibbon picked up a knock during the game last week, so there is some uncertainty around his availability for this clash.Embed from Getty Images
Tigers: 1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. James Roberts 4. Oliver Gildart 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Jackson Hastings 7. Luke Brooks 8. James Tamou 9. Jake Simpkin 10. Stefano Utoikamanu 11. Kelma Tuilagi 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Alex Twal 16. Zane Musgrove 17. Alex Seyfarth 18. Thomas Mikaele 19. Luke Garner 20. Starford To’a 21. Tukimihia Simpkins 22. Jock Madden 23. Austin Dias 24. Jacob Liddle
The Tigers have named just the one change to their 17-man line-up with former captain James Tamou returning from his one-game ban he picked up during the trials. Tamou replaces Alex Twal in the front row, with Twal reverting to the bench and Luke Garner dropping out off the bench to the reserves.
Hooker Jacob Liddle was supposed to be missing for 4-6 weeks after picking up an injury in the trials, but he is a surprise inclusion on the reserves list. Again, much like Saifiti for Newcastle, Liddle is unlikely to make a full recovery in time for this clash, but with this match coming on the Sunday, the Tigers are giving him every chance to prove his fitness.
Referee: Ben Cummins
Coming into this match it feels quite like the last time these two sides met at McDonald Jones Stadium early last year, on that occasion this fixture fell in Round Three, one week later but there are some similarities almost 12-months down the track. The Knights had won both of their opening two matches and were preparing to not just welcome the Tigers to town, but to celebrate the 300th game for halfback Mitchell Pearce. Whilst this year also feels like a big occasion with the Knights playing their first home game since July 3rd last year, when the competition was relocated to Queensland, a big crowd is expected, just like there was last year in Round Three.
For the Tigers who lost their opening two games last year, they are again heading up the M1 in search of their first competition points for the year, after a disappointing opening fortnight last season the Tigers were rank outsiders to ruin Pearce’s party last year. But they managed to brush aside the negativity and put together a good performance on that day to relieve the pressure, and they will again look to do so this year, with coach Michael Maguire under the gun heading into 2022 after a disappointing three years at the club.Embed from Getty Images
The Tigers performed very well against one of the competition favourites last week in the Melbourne Storm, but despite jumping out to a 10-point in the second half, the class of the Storm and the inexperience of the Tigers in closing out tight affairs tolled in the end, and the Tigers ran out of puff losing 26-16. Maguire would have been happy with most of his side, especially his edge backrowers who offered plenty in attack, whilst big offseason recruit Jackson Hastings made a solid start to life at Tiger-town.
Newcastle also faced a competition favourite in week one, as they took on the Roosters at the SCG, a ground they had never won at before. Against all the odds the Knights produced a committed performance and pulled off the biggest upset of the round, wining quite easily in the end 20-6. Much like the Tigers, the Knights were solid 1-17 but special mention to five-eighth Jake Clifford who had his best game in a Knights’ jersey taking over the running of the side since the departure of Pearce.Embed from Getty Images
The clash between Clifford and Hastings could be the most intriguing matchup heading into this clash, both players are undoubtedly talented players, but with lots to prove still in the game, and plenty of people to prove wrong. Hastings’ much publicised messy exit from Manly a few years back saw him banished to England, but he rebuilt his career in the Super League and is back now to prove he does have the ability to be a NRL player. For Clifford, who’s had a great start to his career at Newcastle, he will still have some feelings of disappointment that he was unwanted by his junior club the North Queensland Cowboys and will look to continue making them regret letting him go.
Although it is early in the season, this clash could be crucial when the end of the season comes to an end, both sides have ambitions of playing finals football in 2022, but both are more likely to be scrapping around for 7th or 8th spot, so two-points against a close rival could be vital when September comes around. Newcastle will head into this game favourites after last weeks’ win, and with the home crowd cheering them on they will be hard to beat. But as so often happens in this fixture, the Tigers always seem to cause the Knights problems and they will like their chances to once again head up to Newcastle to get their season off and going.Embed from Getty Images
As mentioned in the match preview, the Tigers don’t mind the trip up to Newcastle and taking on the Knights in their own backyard. Despite not winning any of their first four games in Newcastle, the Tigers have had quite a lot of success at McDonald Jones Stadium. There have been 18 fixtures between these sides in Newcastle, with each side winning nine a piece, but in recent times the black, white, and orange side have won four of the last five.
Knights by 4.
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