Round 8: Warriors v Knights preview
Kicking off Sunday's menu is a battle between two sides struggling for form and confidence, the Knights though come off success, travel to New Zealand to take on the Warriors looking to make amends at Mt Smart Stadium.
Coming into training this week, the mood was lighter for the Newcastle Knights. Just a week after coach Nathan Brown was reported on the verge of the sack, they put together a composed performance to see off surprise packets Parramatta Eels.
That performance was aided by the work of their two biggest stars - Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce - doing what they came to the Hunter to achieve, getting the Knights winning games. Importantly, the Knights need that on a more regular basis to silence the whispers and give Brown some breathing room.
For the Warriors - it was the most gutting of losses. Three points scored at the death condemned the Kiwi side to their fifth loss of the season in Melbourne. There were signs of life though, Chanel Harris-Tavita continues to find his feet while Patrick Herbert impressed enough to retain his spot in the starting side.
The Warriors also welcome back three key players - Blake Green, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and David Fusitua - all good attacking weapons that will give the chance of jumping above the Knights, back into contention for the top eight, and importantly, get their rhythm again.
Who to watch: The grass is greener for the home side when veteran half Blake Green is back in the line-up. The Warriors need to find more points and get their talented back-line involved. With Green back, the also returning David Fusitua and Ken Maumalo should find more room to move, possibly bag themselves some meat pies and kick start the Warriors season.
Can the Knights back up their performance against the Eels? Maybe. It rests again, on the shoulders of their playmakers. Mitch Pearce wound back the clock with a deft kicking game, a left-foot step and two big tackles to lead his side to victory. The former NSW half might have to repeat the dose to back it back-to-back victories.
My tip: These two have had middling seasons thus far, so there isn't really one team shining brighter than the other - if pushed, the Warriors welcome back some key personnel, and should be encouraged by taking it to the Storm. So, it's the home team. Warriors by 2.