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The Knights dare to dream as the Warriors season is over.
Basking in the sweet taste of victory after a comparatively small run of eight straight losses, the Knights will be out to achieve a rare feat - back to back victories. Coming off the back of a determined 21-14 win over the Dragons, coach Nathan Brown will have his side prepared for an unpredictable Warriors outfit capable of causing plenty of headaches for the Knights. Having won on just four occasions over the past decade, the Red and Blue will be aware of the danger posed by the New Zealanders having conceded 21 tries in their past three meetings against the Auckland-based club. Retaining the same 17 players that triumphed over the Dragons last week, dedicated supporters will be out in full force to cheer on their team in a sign of the solidarity shown towards the club despite the adversity endured in the post-Tinkler/Bennett era.
The Warriors have failed to qualify for the finals despite boasting one of the best rosters in the NRL. When distilled to the most simplistic of explanations, it's hard to fathom the continued mediocrity of the Warriors following their last finals appearance. Set to jointly take over the Eels mantle of longest finals drought alongside the Wests Tigers, serious questions have to be directed towards the management and development of a club that boasts an entire nation of juniors. Currently sitting in 11th position, the Warriors face the embarrassing proposition of losing to a Newcastle outfit that has blooded enough debutants over the past two years to field a complete starting 13. In the only change from the side that went down 26-12 to Cronulla last Friday, Isaiah Papalii will play his first game since Round 1 in place of the injured Bodene Thompson.
Last meeting: Round 1 2017 - Warriors 26 Knights 22
Who to watch: In just two games at the club, mid-season purchase Shaun Kenny-Dowall has proven himself to be worth every cent of the redemptive contract provided by the Knights. With his off-field indiscretions well documented, the Kiwi internationals ability on the football field has been at the fore over the past fortnight, with Kenny-Dowall providing service with his dummy half runs that has lifted the Knights to a playing standard rarely sighted over the past two years. While his chances of vying for a premiership are non-existent in 2017, the 29-year-old has the opportunity to launch an unlikely campaign for inclusion in the New Zealand squad for the upcoming World Cup and end the season on his own terms.
Having scored seven tries in his past two matches against the Knights, Warriors flyer David Fusitua will be out to continue his run of strong form on Saturday afternoon. Proving the benefactor of the Knights flimsy left-side defence in recent times, the 22-year-old New Zealand and Tongan international has been down on confidence having failed to cross the tryline in his past nine matches dating back to the beginning of May. Capable of feats of athleticism unmatched by many of his contemporaries, the Warriors will be hoping Fusitua can finish 2017 in the same way he began with a flurry of tries.
The favourite: Despite coming off a run of four straight losses, the Warriors are expected to capitalise on a Newcastle side buoyed after coming off their most determined win for some time.
My tip: The Knights might not have played at their best last week, but having experienced the beauty of winning ugly look for the Novacastrians to go back-to-back. Knights by 4.
1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata'utia 21. Chanel Mata'utia 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jamie Buhrer 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata'utia 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Danny Levi 15. Luke Yates 17. Jacob Saifiti 19. Sam Stone
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 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 15. Sam Lisone 17. James Bell 18. Jazz Tevaga 21. Nathaniel Roache
Referees: Chris Sutton, Chris James; Sideline Officials: Russell Turner, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;