Round 16: Knights v Warriors preview
An entertaining clash awaits in the Hunter on Saturday night as Newcastle look for their eighth win from their past nine games whilst the Warriors are looking to add some consistency to their season looking toward the turn for home.
The Knights bounced back from a heavy defeat against Melbourne three weeks ago to notch an important victory last weekend against the Brisbane Broncos. The Novocastrians were a class above the Broncos as they quickly ran out to an 18-0 lead at half time before their opponents brought the margin back to just eight - the Knights doing just enough to secure victory.
Their season started off poorly and there were questions over the coaching position of Nathan Brown early on, however the Knights turned everything around to go on a six-match winning streak, which saw them climb up the NRL ladder towards the top four. Newcastle though have a tough task on Saturday night with a number of key players missing including Mitchell Pearce, Daniel Saifiti, David Klemmer and Tim Glasby - all four of whom have been called up for Origin duties.
The Warriors were seemingly gifted their match last week with a number of officiating blunders going their way, however they were unable to hold onto a 16-6 lead against the (at one-stage 11-man) Panthers - and despite an 80th minute penalty goal, the Warriors succumbed to a 19-18 loss in Golden Point extra time.
A look at their form-line shows season has been a rollercoaster, with just five wins from their 14 matches and coming into this game they'll be looking to avoid back-to-back losses following that defeat against Penrith. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors aren't affected by Origin call-ups, but have lost hooker Nathaniel Roache who suffered another ACL injury last weekend. Karl Lawton moves into the starting side at hooker with Issac Luke recalled from Canterbury Cup to join the bench.
Who to watch: Former Warrior Mason Lino has spent his first season with the Knights playing in both the NRL and Canterbury Cup competitions, but now has to shoulder the load of leading the home side around the park. Lino has made 4 appearances this season for Newcastle and has had a comfortable season having played second-fiddle to Pearce, but Saturday will see Lino take control of the Knights against his own side.
Since relcoating across the Tasman from the Broncos, Kodi Nikorima has made a big impact since his move to the Warriors, but at times he's failed to take control. Last week against the Panthers was a clear example of that. Coach Stephen Kearney will want Nikorima to show everything and take a leading role alongside Blake Green, with the Warriors having a very good opportunity to take a rare win in Newcastle.
The favourite: The Warriors have been installed as favourites given that they are at full-strength in comparison to the Knights, despite Newcastle having won the first match between the teams this season in Auckland.
My tip: This game is a tough to pick given that the Warriors were gifted opportunities their last match by refereeing errors, but couldn't see their way to hold onto a 16-6 lead; meanwhile the Knights - who are in good form - come into it with a massively depleted side. Newcastle will certainly be boosted by being at home, but ultimately the Warriors should have the experience and the strength to beat the home side - but only just. Warriors by 2.