NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v WESTS TIGERS
Round 13, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday, June 8 Kick-Off: 2pm.
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Ashley Klein, Alan Shortall
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle recorded a dominant 42-10 victory over the Tigers at Hunter Stadium in the opening round of last season.
The Knights and Tigers are equal on nine wins each from their 18 clashes since the joint-venture club's inception in 2000.
Newcastle has won their past two matches against the Tigers but prior to that the men in black and orange had won five of the past six matches.
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Mullen, Roberts, Snowden, Gidley (c), Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Interchange: Clydsdale, Sims, Houston, Fa'alogo.
Tedesco, Nofoaluma, Simona, Lawrence, Richards, Anasta, Brooks, Woods, Farah, Galloway, Fulton, Thompson, Blair. Interchange: Sue, Taupau, Austin, Seumanufagai, Sironen.
Newcastle has only won two matches this season and sit in second-last position on the competition table but assistant coach Rick Stone remains positive.
"It has been disappointing, but we haven't been too far away in the last couple of weeks," Stone stresses.
"We've just got to keep believing in the processes and how hard we work and realise that some good things will come of it.
"I think we are getting a bit closer in that regard and with a bit more luck and effort and some real support from the crowd, this week is going to be a good one."
Stone has no doubts the return of winger Aku Uate from a knee injury will significantly help the Knights' chances of beating the Tigers.
Uate is one of the NRL's most potent wingers and the men in red and blue need him to fire on Sunday.
"It will be a boost having Aku in the team," he enthuses.
"He wasn't feeling terrific with his knee last week and decided to stay away from the New Zealand trip, which is probably not a bad thing because you can get a bit of swelling on the plane trip.
"So hopefully he'll be a little bit fresh and keen to make amends for the last couple of weeks.
"Let's hope he can get a couple of tries on Sunday."
The Knights will also welcome back key forward Beau Scott, who takes his place in the back-row after two weeks on the sideline due to groin and neck injuries.
Partner in crime and former premiership-winning Dragons teammate, Jeremy Smith will join Scott in the forwards.
Stone can't speak highly enough of the talented duo.
"Beau and Jezza are particularly important to our football team," Stone says.
"They bring a lot of competitive spirit and they're really tenacious and they compete on every play.
"Beau was exceptional in the Origin and he'll derive some confidence from that for sure.
"He brings some confidence and belief, particularly to our right-edge and I think the boys over that side will be happy to see him back.
"He also brings a bit of presence as well and it's the same with Jez. They're both respected players who play pretty consistently ever week."
Darius Boyd vs James Tedesco
Boyd has been widely criticised for his form this season but he deserves a rap for his recent efforts.
The Brisbane-born fullback was strong for Queensland in the opening Origin, while he backed up that performance with a solid showing against the Warriors last Sunday.
While there's no doubting Boyd can be better, he is starting to showcase the type of effort that saw him win last year's Knights' best and fairest award.
He faces a big battle on Sunday against Tigers fullback James Tedesco, a player with enormous potential and ability.
Tedesco will also be boosted by his last-minute decision to pull out of his three-year deal with Canberra to remain at the Tigers.
Tyrone Roberts vs Luke Brooks
When it comes to entertaining match-ups, this one should be right up there.
Roberts was outstanding in a beaten side against the Warriors last week, while Brooks is the bloke tipped by many to become a future superstar.
So who wins out?
Well a lot will depend on which forward pack gets on top.
If Newcastle's big men can set a platform, then Roberts has the ability to steer the Knights to victory.
Kurt Gidley vs Robbie Farah
This match-up will be crucial to the final outcome.
Gidley is starting to find his feet at hooker, while Farah is a proven star for the Tigers and NSW in the No.9 jumper.
Stone has no doubts the Knights must shutdown Farah from dummy half.
"Robbie is probably the linchpin to them," Stone says.
"If you can control him, his little subtle moves around the ruck and how he engineers a bit of momentum out of out of the play the ball, that's really important.
"You can't give away your inside shoulder from marker and he also has that little left-foot kick there that he can bring out as well."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle have had the wood over the Wests Tigers in recent years but that will count for little at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
On the back of a potent blend of youth and experience, the Tigers have been one of the competition's real surprise packets so far this season.
Led by the experience of Farah and Anasta and well supported by the young guns like Tedesco and Brooks, the men in black and orange can be a difficult team to beat.
The Knights haven't claimed a win since Round 6 against the Raiders but they are competing in every match.
If the side red and blue can improve a few basics and limit their errors, then they possess the team to win this one on home turf.
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