NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS VS BRISBANE BRONCOS
Round 7, 2014 NYC Premiership
Friday, April 18 Kick-Off: 5.20pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Last Time They Met:
Brisbane charged to a comprehensive 38-6 victory over Newcastle at Suncorp Stadium in Round 25 last season, while the Knights proved too good at home in Round 21 with a dominant 52-10 triumph at Hunter Stadium.
Mamo, Donovan, Mata'utia, Peni, Birch, Keenan, Feeney, Pakau, Levi, Yates, Tapine, Pondekas, Fitzgibbon. Bench: Lo Monaco, Smith, Togiatasi, Petterson-Robati.
K.Nikorima, Alick, Drew, Tuttle, Opacic, J.Nikorima, Brimson, Rockley, Berrell, Ofahengaue, Adams, Greinke, Arrow. Bench: Lee, Barr, Gee, Fai.
From their scintillating attack through to their never-say-die attitude in defence, the Knights NYC team has been strong across the park in the opening six rounds.
It's a dominance that shows in their standing on top of the Holden Cup ladder as the only undefeated team so far this season.
As good as the 20s side has been this season though, they face a stern test against a sixth placed Brisbane Broncos outfit.
The Broncos may have lost two games this year, but they are a team with plenty of attacking ability.
This flair with the ball in hand is best represented through brothers Kodi and Jayden Nikorima. The sibling duo scored five of the Broncos' six tries in a big 34-18 win over the Gold Coast Titans last weekend and will again feature predominately at Hunter Stadium on Friday.
While you certainly can't discount Brisbane, the Knights are equally potent in attack led by the likes of Sione Mata'utia, Jaelen Feeney, Bryce Donovan and Josh Birch.
With halfback Feeney steering a skilful Newcastle side around the park, the Broncos will have to be on their guard defensively to get the win away from home.
Brisbane has conceded 46 points more than the Knights in the opening six rounds and they'll have to improve that stat to limit speeders like Mata'utia and goal kicking winger Bryce Donovan.
There's no doubting Newcastle's backs have been brilliant so far this season, but the team's forwards also deserve praise. From props Luke Yates and Jah Pakau through to back-rowers Joseph Tapine, Harry Pondekas and Lachlan Fitzgibbon, the Knights' big men have all had a big impact.
When you combine the strength and skill of their forwards and the sheer speed of their backs, Newcastle has all the ingredients to be too strong in this round seven clash at Hunter Stadium.
Joseph Tapine vs Ajuma Adams
From an off-season hernia injury to weekly heroics on the footy field, Tapine has been one of the Knights' stars this season. The New Zealand-born back-rower scored a hat-trick of tries against Canberra last weekend and he'll be keen to continue that form against Brisbane.
Standing in his way is Broncos hard man Ajuma Adams, a Maroochydore junior on the rise after completing his first pre-season with the NRL squad over the summer.
Jaelen Feeney vs Will Brimson
As one of the team's major off-season buys, Feeney has proven himself to be a more than worthy purchase. From his ability to organise through to his kicking game, the former Bulldog is a class act.
Feeney lines up against Broncos No.7 Will Brimson, a player who has represented Queensland in touch football and has a heap of skill and speed.
Harry Pondekas vs Brett Greinke
Lining up against your former club is always a big occasion, so Pondekas can expect plenty of friendly fire from Brisbane.
Harry has been a standout performer since joining the Knights in the early rounds and would love nothing more than a victory over his old buddies at the Broncos.
He'll take on Brisbane back-rower Brett Greinke , a hard hitting forward now in his second season in the NYC ranks. Pondekas has the edge in experience though and this should show on Friday.
Where it will be won:
Newcastle has proven to be a potent force in the opening rounds on the back of their resilience in defence.
You see, as strong as the skill of Jake Mamo, Sione Mata'utia and Jaelen Feeney has been, the team's ability to defend tries has been the real secret to their success.
If they can maintain that defensive standard against Brisbane, then they'll go a long way to toppling the Broncos and maintaining their unbeaten start to the 2014 season.