Pre Match
5:30pm Sat August 24, 2019
Round 23 - Campbelltown Stadium

Round 23: Wests Tigers v Knights preview

Two September hopefuls fight to keep their season alive

The equation is simple for the Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights on Saturday afternoon - win and stay in the race to finals or lose and say goodbye to your chances of a top-eight finish.

Both sit on 20 points and with the cut-off point for finals this year expected to be at least 25 points, they must win all of their remaining three games.

The Tigers' finals hopes took a massive dent with injuries to Robbie Farah and Moses Mbye, followed by a season-ending leg injury to back-up hooker Jacob Liddle.

It means that Josh Reynolds makes his long-awaited return to first-grade this week. He won't just be fighting to keep his side's finals prospects alive but will also be performing for a contract.

Wests did well to stay in the contest for the first 60 minutes against Manly before being blown away late, falling to a 32-12 defeat.

The Tigers were on the wrong side of all the important statistics, finishing with just 36% of the ball, running for almost 700 less metres than their opponents and making 170 more tackles.

Coach Michael Maguire will be hoping the experience has hardened them for the month to come, starting off with the rejuvenated Knights.

Newcastle arrested a six-game losing slump last week when they pumped the Cowboys 42-6.

It was just the performance they needed to potentially restore confidence.

After all, the Knights' winning run earlier this year came off the back of another losing streak and was ignited from a big win over the Eels.

But it will be interesting to see whether the announcement of the departure of coach Nathan Brown at the end of the year will have an impact on the playing group.

One of their best players last week was Connor Watson, who provided much-needed spark from dummy-half before going off injured.

Unfortunately, he is unavailable this week and replaced by Danny Levi.

Having gone down 28-26 to the Tigers only a month ago, Brown will be hoping his side doesn't get too carried away by their win over the Cowboys given they didn't offer too much resistance in defence.

Last meeting: Round 19 2019 - Knights 26 Wests Tigers 28

Who to watch: The battle of the number nines shapes an interesting one this week, with both Levi and Reynolds fighting to play on next year. Both haven't had consistent opportunities to impress in 2019 and even if their future doesn't lie at their current clubs, will still be keen to attract suitors from other clubs. Newcastle looked much better last week with quick service and running from Watson, something Levi will need to replicate. Meanwhile, Reynolds will provide the Tigers with a much-needed injection of energy and enthusiasm, something hard to come by given their recent injury struggles. 

The favourite: The Knights start slight favourites.

My tip: Are Newcastle back or was last week's win over an ordinary opponent not a true indication of what will come in the next month?  Farah has come out this week to stress his desire to play again in 2019 and back at home surely that will be enough to get the Tigers home. Wests Tigers by 2.