Round 11: Knights v Panthers preview - 2017 Round 11
Last-start winners look for consistency
Pulling off an unexpected victory to the delight of their loyal supporters, the Knights will be vying to continue their winning ways against a resurgent Penrith outfit. Rewarded for their perseverance over the past two months, coach Nathan Brown will be stressing the importance of backing up last weeks win over Canberra with another positive performance in front of their home fans. Having been embarrassed by the Panthers earlier this season, the Knights will have no excuses for exacting payback on a side that has proven too strong in five of the past six clashes. Having shaken things up just before kick-off last week, the Knights have named a similar outfit with Dane Gagai to start at fullback, while young forwards Sam Stone and Mitchell Barnett return to the squad.
Staring down the prospect of a humiliating loss in front of their home supporters, the Panthers rallied to produce a remarkable win over the Warriors last Saturday. Sitting two wins outside the top eight, coach Anthony Griffin will be working overtime in the lead up to Sunday's match on ensuring the sides defence remains solid, while reminding his players of the consequences of chasing points, as highlighted by the intercepts conceded against the Warriors. With James Fisher-Harris out, impressive back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera will start, with Fijian international Viliame Kikau coming onto the bench. Unable to break into the first grade team so far this season, don't be surprised to see former Dragons rake Mitch Rein come into the side to provide a fresh perspective should things look bleak for the visitors.
Who to watch: Having been tasked with the job of directing play following the controversial move to drop captain Trent Hodkinson to reserve grade, Jaelen Feeney looks to found his place in the NRL over the past month. Enduring an indifferent 2016 which saw him fill in throughout the backline, the 22-year-old has relished the chance to develop alongside Brock Lamb culminating in a starring performance in the win over Canberra last week. Facing off against a classy Penrith outfit brimming with exciting youngsters, look for Feeney to increase his involvement as his confidence grows, as the Knights strive to record back-to-back wins for the first time since 2015.
He may not boast the reputation of some of his teammates, but as far as value goes there are few players as consistent as Isaah Yeo. In his fourth season in the top grade, the 22-year-old has cemented his place in the second row after debuting in the centres, averaging close to 30 tackles and over 100 metres per game. Spearheading the Panthers revival against the Warriors last Saturday with a series of determined runs and effective tackles, the lanky forward will be aiming to replicate his performance as both sides look to post consecutive wins for this season.
My tip: They may give up experience to every opponent they come up against, but despite the adversity they face the Knights are learning to win as a team. The Panthers will prove too much in a game centred on attack, but if the home side can stick to a defensive game plan the result should go their way in the end. Knights by 6.