Knights v Wests Tigers preview

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Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers Sunday 4:05pm at McDonald Jones Stadium, New Lambton

Knights aim to build on impressive first round win

Both sides will be looking to back up their respective first round showings when the Newcastle Knights meet the Wests Tigers in Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.

The Newcastle Knights kicked off their 2022 season last weekend against the Roosters, coming away with a very impressive 20-6 win on enemy territory. The win was highlighted by an outstanding defensive effort, keeping James Tedesco's side tryless for 75 minutes before Paul Momirovski found his way to the line late on. There are still many question marks over the potential of a Knight's team that lacks experienced players in key positions, but their performance in round 1 shows that only a fool would count them out.

This weekend against the Tigers will be another big challenge for the spine. Inexperienced halves Jake Clifford and Adam Clune starred, and will need to do so again in place of now-Catalan half Mitchell Pearce. Hooker Chris Randall has seemingly cemented his spot in the 13 in the absence of regular number 9 Jayden Brailey, after a big showing in round 1 in which he made 50 tackles for no missed ones.

Eyes will be on the outside backs for Newcastle this weekend, with centres Dane Gagai and Bradman Best impressing in their first outing of the season. Promising young winger Dominic Young will get another opportunity to impress coach Adam O'Brien before injured wingers Edrick Lee and Hymel Hunt return later in the season.

The Wests Tigers nearly started the season with a huge scalp when they met the Storm on Saturday night. A lead of 14-4 wasn't enough against a fast finishing Melbourne side, with the Concord team going down 26-16 in a first round clash that showcased the clubs potential. New recruits Jackson Hastings and Tyrone Peachy will hope to keep their run of form from the trials going, while winger Ken Maumalo looked formidable on the left edge.

In a big boost for West's forward pack, co-captain James Tamou will return from suspension this weekend. The experienced prop should provide some leadership for a forward pack that has plenty of talent. Big Stefano Utoikamanu will be hoping for an origin call up this year, and young second rower Kelma Tuilagi demonstrated why he deserves a starting role in a great performance in round 1 when he played over 70 minutes.

Both teams are known for their inconsistent performances, and in the end it will come down to who can build on their start. For the Tigers, it is easy to see them crumbling under pressure and failing to do what worked for them against the Storm. A positive attitude will be needed if they want to find the first win of their season. For the Knights, a hard slog in the first round coupled with an injury hit team could see fatigue become a factor, which would be a worry this early in the season.

The Newcastle Knights were the only team that Wests Tigers beat twice in the 2021 season.

Last meeting: Round 10 2021 - Wests Tigers 36 Knights 18

Who to watch: Two inexperienced number 9's will be battling it out for control of the ruck this Sunday. For the Tigers, Jake Simpkin is filling in for injured hooker Jacob Liddle. After making his NRL debut last year, he has only 10 first grade appearances to his name, with a number of them coming off the bench at the tail end of last year. He has recently been locked down by the club until the end of the 2024 season, and will need to live up to the hype that has surrounded him through the junior systems. He appeared to have injured his shoulder during the closing stages of their match against Melbourne, and fans will be hoping that he is at full fitness for this trip north to Newcastle.

For Newcastle, Chris Randall has shown that he is a more than adequate replacement for the injured Jayden Brailey. The hooker made his debut in round 3 of last year, and holds the NRL record for the most tackles on debut with 73. Coach Adam O'Brien will be hoping he can last the full 80 minutes, but experienced utility Kurt Mann could step in if that's not the case.

The favourite: The Newcastle Knights are expected to continue their form and edge the Tigers at home this Sunday.

My tip: Both sides had quite encouraging first round games, but I just don't think Newcastle can perform so well for a second week running. A spirited Tigers side will make it 3 in a row against Newcastle in a nailbiter. Wests Tigers by 2.

20. Tex Hoy 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Enari Tuala 6. Jake Clifford 7. Adam Clune 15. Mitchell Barnett 9. Chris Randall 10. Jacob Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Phoenix Crossland 16. Leo Thompson 17. Jirah Momoisea 18. Mathew Croker 21. Simi Sasagi

1. Daine Laurie 2. David Nofoaluma 3. James Roberts 4. Oliver Gildart 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Jackson Hastings 7. Luke Brooks 15. Alex Twal 9. Jake Simpkin 10. Stefano Utoikamanu 11. Kelma Tuilagi 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Tyrone Peachey 16. Zane Musgrove 17. Alex Seyfarth 18. Thomas Mikaele 19. Luke Garner

Referees: Ben Cummins; Sideline Officials: Darian Furner, Chris Sutton; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;

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