NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Round 12, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday, June 1 Kick-Off: 2.00pm
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referees: Gavin Badger & Gavin Reynolds
Last Time They Met:
The Warriors charged to a comfortable 28-12 victory over the Knights at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 11 last season.
Newcastle has recorded just one win from their last six clashes against the Warriors dating back to 2010.
That victory came in Round 20 of the 2012 season, an impressive 24-19 triumph after trailing 18-0 in the first half.
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Mullen, Roberts, Snowden, Gidley (c), Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Interchange: Clydsdale, Sims, Cuthbertson, Houston, Fa'alogo.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Tomkins, Fusitu'a, Hurrell, Laumape, Vatuvei, Townsend, Johnson, Lillyman, Friend, Matagi, Bukuya, Matulino, Mannering (c). Interchange: Havili, Rapira, Mateo, Ikahihifo.
Taking on the Warriors in New Zealand is always a tough proposition but assistant coach Rick Stone believes the Knights are ready to cause an upset.
On the back of their strong effort against Manly before the bye, Stone says the players are refreshed and keen to build on that resilient performance.
He pinpoints the Club's victory over the Warriors in Round 20 of the 2012 season as the perfect form guide on how to topple the Kiwi-based side on home turf.
"We’ve always struggled a bit over in New Zealand," Stone says.
"But I think Wayne Bennett sides and the way they play tend to have some good success over there.
"I think they had a win over there two years ago and we need to play that sort of footy that was successful for us at the backend of last year.
"You’ve got to take the Warriors out to that 65th minute and really challenge them to get through the whole 80 minutes.
"That’s something we did against Manly last week and it’s something we are looking to do again."
The Warriors possess one of the biggest packs in the NRL competition but Stone has no doubts the Knights can compete, especially off the bench.
"Our bench is a bit stronger than we’ve had in previous weeks," he says.
"Not being disrespectful to the guys who have played there in previous weeks, but with Cuthbo, Fa’aolgo and Sims we’ve got plenty of size."
Darius Boyd vs Sam Tomkins
When it comes to polarised players, Boyd is certainly right up there.
As much as the Origin and Test star has struggled to capture his best form this season, Stone says a standout performance is just around the corner.
"Darbs cops a lot of criticism for not all the right reasons," he says.
"I thought his effort against Manly was terrific.
"I think he had close to 20 carries for 188 metres and a lot of those carries were dusty carries inside our own territory.
"It just shows that he was keen to play and willing to roll up the jumper and get himself a bit dirty."
Stone has no doubts Boyd will return from Origin camp buzzing, particularly if he performs well on the Origin stage.
"Any time he goes back into the Queensland team there is a comfortable feel to it and I think it would pep anyone up to be honest," he says.
"So he should come back on a high, particularly if they win.
"Let’s hope for Darius, he plays well and comes back feeling fresh and with a bit more confidence."
Kurt Gidley vs Nathan Friend
There's no doubting Gidley is still finding his feet in the No.9 jumper.
That said, the skipper was at his best against Manly in Round 10. In 70 minutes of football, he made 41 tackles and was a rock in the middle of the ruck.
Stone says this effort is proof Gidley is more than capable of excelling at hooker.
"Gids has taken a little bit of time to find his niche there at hooker," he admits.
"But I thought he played his best game of the season against Manly.
"He floated a little bit from nine to 13 and his time on the field was extended because of that, which is a good thing.
"Kurt just loves being out there and competing and I think we’ll continue to see him improve as the weeks go on."
Jeremy Smith vs Simon Mannering
Stone believes the return of Jeremy Smith from a knee injury is a huge boost for the Knights.
"Jeremy is a really important part of our team," he says about the veteran of 10 seasons and 22 Tests for New Zealand.
"He brings a lot of tenacity and he is a great competitor.
"He has been his entire career and he and Beau Scott have been the leaders in that particular area in the past few years for the Knights.
"Jez has plenty of respect from the Warriors boys, especially having been a Kiwi representative for a long time," he says.
"He generally plays well against his old mates, so we’ll be looking for a big game from him."
Player to watch:
Stone can't speak highly enough of the Avalon Bulldogs junior, who signed a four-year deal with the Leeds Rhinos starting next season during the week.
"Cuthbo has played lock for us in the last couple of weeks and I think it fits his game pretty well," he says.
"He has got a good bit of skill, his work rate is good and he brings a fair bit of skill to the forward pack as well."
Where it will be won:
The Warriors are one of the NRL's most dangerous teams when they're on and playing well.
Conversely, they are also one of the worst when they're off.
Newcastle will be hoping the latter is the case at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The Knights may be languishing in 15th position after 11 rounds but they've proven they can compete against some of the competitions best teams.
They showcased this ability against the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles and they'll need to reproduce that type of effort in New Zealand this weekend.
If Newcastle can put in a solid 80-minute performance, then they should be too strong for the Warriors.
Voice for Mining Day is back!
See the Knights run out in the special edition hi-viz mining jersey and be part of one of the biggest crowds at Hunter Stadium this season when the Knights take on West Tigers at on June 8 for Voice for Mining Day! Get your ticket here.