Knights v Wests Tigers preview - 2017 Round 17

Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers Sunday 2:00pm at McDonald Jones Stadium

Cancel all your plans and tune in on Sunday afternoon as the last-placed Knights host the 15th placed Tigers in the Spoonbowl for 2017!

For the Knights, Sunday's game will be particularly important as Nathan Brown's men attempt to take one big step away from claiming their third straight Wooden Spoon. Newcastle almost did just that last week, scoring five tries within fourteen minutes to cruise to a 28-10 lead over the Dragons at half time. Yet, all their hard work was undone when the Dragons regained possession, with the Knights unable to withstand the pressure, eventually falling to a disappointing 32-28 defeat. It is quite extraordinary that the Novocastrians were even able to get that close considering that they missed a whopping 56 tackles. Both the Tigers and Knights have struggled in defence this year, ranking second and thirst word in that category respectively. Therefore, an improved performance in that regard from the home side will go a long way to lifting them off the bottom of the ladder.

It was not much better for the Tigers last week. In many ways, Ivan Cleary's men were lucky that they only came up against the Gold Coast, with their performance ultimately summed up by one wayward pass by Tuimoala Lolohea - the Tigers were lacking any real direction in attack. It does not get any easier this week, as the Tigers have failed to post over twenty points against the Knights in seven of their past eight encounters. Unfortunately, their task has been made even more difficult with James Tedesco ruled out with an ankle injury after being originally named to start in the fullback position. 

Last meeting: Round 11 2016 - Wests Tigers 20 Knights 12

Before that, the Knights overcame the Tigers 18-16 at Hunter Stadium in Round 6 last year. It was their first victory in 230 days.

Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks could decide this one. Nathan Ross was electric for the Knights last week after shifting to the fullback role. The man who called himself "a poor man's Gutherson" was anything but scoring a hat-trick, running for 220 metres and making two line breaks in an impressive outing. A similar effort will be needed as he comes up against the returning Tedesco.

With Tedesco out, the Tigers will need all the explosive power that they can get from winger David Nofoaluma. Nofoaluma was in fine touch against the Titans last week, running for 185 metres and contributing 1 line break, try and try-assist to an otherwise well beaten side. A similar performance here will be needed as the Tigers have struggled in attack in recent weeks.

The favourite: For the first time in years, the Knights are favourites.

My tip: No Tedesco = No Tigers. The Knights have shown enough fight in recent weeks to suggest that they can rise to the occasion on Sunday. Knights by 8.

1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata'utia 15. Joe Wardle 20. Trent Hodkinson 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata'utia 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Jamie Buhrer 17. Jacob Saifiti 19. Sam Stone 21. Josh Starling

5. Kevin Naiqama 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Moses Suli 18. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 20. Joel Edwards 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Matthew Eisenhuth 16. Michael Chee-Kam 17. Matt McIlwrick 21. Alex Twal

Referees: Gavin Reynolds, Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials: Dave Ryan, Chris Sutton; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea;

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