NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Round 9, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday, May 11 Kick-Off: 2pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Jared Maxwell and Brett Suttor
Last Time They Met:
It was a forgettable day for Newcastle as they suffered a comprehensive 30-8 loss against Penrith in the season opener.
The Knights led 8-6 at the halftime break, but found life difficult in the second half following injuries and concussion to key playmakers Darius Boyd, Kurt Gidley and Tyrone Roberts.
Played 39; Newcastle 22, Penrith 14, drawn 3
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Mullen, Roberts, Fa'alogo, Gidley (c), Snowden, Scott, Rochow, Cuthbertson. Interchange: Clydsdale, Sims, Houston, Hilder.
Moylan, Simmons, Whare, Idris, Mansour, Soward, Wallace, Plum, Kingston, Kite, Peachey, Manu, Docker. Interchange: Segeyaro, McKendry, Robinson, Latimore.
Newcastle may have been comprehensively beaten the last time they played Penrith, but assistant coach Rick Stone believes the Knights are ready to regain some form at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Stone says the playing group trained strongly this week and want to play well in front of their loyal fans.
"Our team still looks pretty good on paper and we’ve kept the majority of our outside backs and our forward pack has still got a good familiar look to it," Stone says heading into the crucial Round 9 fixture against the Panthers.
"We were pretty poor against Penrith in the first round and we made a lot of errors down there.
"But we’ve had a week to freshen up and I think there has been a good feel around training in the first few days."
Stone says the Knights gained plenty of belief from their close 16-12 loss against the Bulldogs last round, a game they led for much of the second half on the back of their strong defence.
"I think everyone took some confidence from that match," he says.
"We were very disappointed, but we weren’t shattered about the Canterbury game.
"We didn’t get the valuable two points of course, but it shows we are not too far away if the Bulldogs are leading the comp.
"So another consistent 80 minutes like that will give us a chance in any game we play.
"You need 12 wins to get to the finals, so we need to win 10 out of our next 16 games.
"So we need to get moving and string a few wins together."
Jarrod Mullen vs Jamie Soward
On the back of his impressive performance for Country last weekend, Mullen is full of confidence and ready to fire for the Knights.
Now in his fourth week back from his off-season hamstring injury, the five-eighth holds the key to success with his pinpoint kicking game and general organisation.
Stone has noticed Mullen lift in recent weeks and he hopes that good form continues against Soward and the Panthers on Sunday.
"Mullo just back from a hamstring injury and starting to feel a little bit more comfortable and secure," he says.
"His kicking game is also a massive bonus."
Tyrone Roberts vs Peter Wallace
Just like his mate Mullen, Roberts has returned to Knights HQ this week buzzing after his Country Origin experience.
Stone was impressed by the Grafton-born No.7 in his maiden rep match for Country and has encouraged him to maintain that form for the rest of the season.
"I think he enjoyed the week with Country and he would have got plenty of confidence as well," Stone says.
"I think we are getting closer to seeing the best out of Tyrone."
Joey Leilua vs Jamal Idris
Leilua ruled himself out of last weekend's representative round due to a knee injury, but he is refreshed and pumped to play well against Penrith on Sunday.
He faces a huge battle trying to contain in-form Panther Jamal Idris, who starred for Country Origin last Sunday with a dominant man-of-the-match display.
While Idris is playing well, Leilua is well rested and equally as damaging when he gets the ball in open space.
Player to watch:
Stone nominates exciting outside backs Jamal Idris and Dean Whare as two players Newcastle must contain to win.
"Jamal and Dean are the two strike weapons I feel," he says.
"They’ve both got something different to bring to the table.
"Whare is very quick, sharp and skilful and Idris is a powerful type who does some real damage with offloads and some blockbusting running.
"But if we can sort those two out and do well with our forward pack, it will help us."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle will be without experienced forwards Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith, so it's paramount the likes of Kade Snowden, David Fa'alogo, Beau Scott and Robbie Rochow step up in their absence.
The Panthers possess a potent pack and the Knights must match their grunt in the aggression stakes.
If this happens, then the men in red and blue have the outside backs and classy halves to win this one at home.
The kicking game of Jarrod Mullen will be vital. If Mullen gets the space to control the match on the back of his pinpoint kicks, it will go a long way to helping the Knights get the two competition points.