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NRL match preview: Round 11

Competition - NRL. Round - Round 3. Teams - Newcastle Knights v South Sydney Rabbitohs. Date - 18th of March 2017. Venue - McDonald Jones Stadium, Broadmeadow NSW. Photographer - Paul Barkley | © NRL Photos
Danny Levi is again set to start at dummy-half.

The nib Newcastle Knights will be aiming to record back-to-back wins as they host the Penrith Panthers this Sunday at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The match marks the last game on home turf for six weeks, with two byes and three away matches to follow for the men in red and blue.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PENRITH PANTHERS

Date: Sunday May 21
Gates open: 9.30am
Kick-off: 2pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 44
Knights: 23
Panthers: 18
Drawn: 3

SQUADS

Newcastle

1. Dane Gagai, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Joe Wardle, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jaelen Feeney, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Josh King. Interchange: 14. Luke Yates, 15. Anthony Tupou, 16. Mitch Barnett, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Brendan Elliot, 19. Tyler Randell, 20. Trent Hodkinson, 21. Jack Stockwell.

Penrith

1. Matt Moylan, 2. Peta Hiku, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelesniak, 6. Bryce Cartwright, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Peter Wallace, 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. Leilani Latu, 16. Tim Browne, 17. Viliame Kikau, 18. Moses Leota, 19. Sitaleki Akauola, 20. Mitch Rein, 21. Te Maire Martin.

TALKING POINTS

Barn-storming Barnett returns

In the opening rounds of the 2017 season Mitch Barnett was easily one of the Club’s best, until the young forward was was sidelined with an unfortunate ankle injury in Round 8.

He’s been named to return from the bench this weekend earlier than expected, after working hard and getting a little luck through his rehabilitation process.

In the end he’s only missed two matches, with Luke Yates and Josh King sharing the lock position.

They both keep their places in the squad, with King named to start this week after an impressive performance last Sunday.

“I enjoy playing with all of the boys and want to get back out there, perform week in, week out and keep trying to get that win,” Barnett said on Wednesday.

“I want to repay the boys by putting in a good performance and taking my opportunity this weekend.”

Barnett’s work ethic and toughness will definitely be needed against a Panthers side that contains several representative forwards.

 

While Trent Merrin loves an offload, Mitch Barnett holds the upper hand defensively.
While Trent Merrin loves an offload, Mitch Barnett holds the upper hand defensively.

 

Positional switches

Last week the team played a little bit of musical chairs, as Dane Gagai went from fullback to centre, Joe Wardle switched from second row to centre, and Lachlan Fitzgibbon came into the second row.

It seemed to work a treat for the Knights, and this week Gagai and Wardle retain their new positions.

While coach Nathan Brown would like to keep his side the same this week, a rested Sam Stone comes back in for the injured Fitzgibbon and Trent Hodkinson may come back in at halfback, if Jaelen Feeney can’t overcome a knee injury.

“We have a few blokes carrying some niggles, so whether they make it or not we’ll have to wait and see,” coach Brown said on Thursday.

“Jaelen played very well the other day and you’d like to see him play again… he’s earned the right to play but rugby league is a rough game and sometimes these things happen.”

A look at the stats

On average the Panthers score as many four-pointers as the Knight, but concede one less try a match.

Both clubs also have the same completion rate, and while the Knights average less line breaks per game, they also make less handling errors.

This should see a fairly close contest play out at McDonald Jones Stadium and if the Knights win, they could climb off the bottom of the table.

Both the Panthers and the Wests Tigers have one more win than the red and blues in 2017, and the Tigers have an inferior points difference.

THE FINAL SAY

“The win last week doesn’t matter; we need to keep the ball rolling and get the points on the board again,” Wardle said on Wednesday.

“The Panthers are a great side… they’ve got (Matt) Moylan, (Dallin) Watene-Zelezniak on the wing so I’m sure (Nathan) Browny will have a good game plan.”