NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Round 14, 2014 NRL Premiership
Saturday, June 14
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Referees: Gavin Badger & Gavin Reynolds
Last Time They Met:
Unfortunately for Newcastle fans it was a night to forget, as the high-flying Roosters charged to a comprehensive 40-14 victory over in the Knights in a dominant preliminary final display.
The Knights haven't beaten the Roosters in Sydney since 2009, while the Tri-colours have won three of the past four clashes between the two clubs.
Mamo, Mantellato, Gagai, McManus, Uate, Mullen, Roberts, Fa'alogo, Gidley (c), Mason, Houston, Rochow, Smith. Interchange: Clydsdale, Sims, Tapine, Newton.
Minichiello (c), Macdonald, Aubusson, Kenny-Dowall, Tuivasa-Sheck, Maloney, Pearce, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Moa, Napa, Williams, Nuuausala. Interchange: Liu, Casty, Evans, Meehan, Mortimer.
The Roosters will be without Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou and Aidan Guerra due to Origin, but they still possess one of the most potent teams in the NRL.
That's certainly the viewpoint of the Knights heading into Saturday's clash against the defending premiers at Allianz Stadium.
Just ask assistant coach Rick Stone, a bloke who has no doubts Newcastle will have to be at their best to topple the Tri-colours.
"They have plenty of power and punch in the forwards, while they have a heap of skill in the halves," Stone says.
"Obviously they (Pearce and Maloney) were the NSW halves last year. Then you’ve got Sonny Bill Williams, who is a terrific player and they’ve also got some exciting young outside backs as well.
"So they are the reigning premiers for a reason.
"They bring good quality and I think they have found a little bit of a mojo after starting the season maybe a bit slow."
The Knights may be languishing in second-last position on the ladder, but Stone insists the side is still doing plenty right.
"If you look at last week’s game against the Tigers, we did a lot of things well," he says.
"You don’t often lose with how many good things we did, which was disappointing.
"Off-loads hurt us a little bit and some defensive concentration lapses really hurt us, especially when we scored four tries to their three."
In order to beat the Roosters on Saturday, Stone says the Knights must contain the Roosters' big men.
From Jared Waerea-Hargreaves through to Sam Moa and superstar Sonny Bill Williams, the defending champions are one fearsome crew.
That said, Stone remains confident an under-strength Knights outfit led by veterans Willie Mason and David Fa'alogo can get the job done.
"It's important you shut down the power of their pack," he explains.
"It’s also the short passing through the middle with their pack that’s the hardest part to handle.
"Then you’ve got Jake Friend on the back of some quick play the balls that’s a difficult one as well.
"But it starts with handling their big pack and trying to win the ruck there.
"Often the Roosters’ pack blow teams off the park early.
"They run hard and they support the ball carrier well, so you’ve always got a few decisions to make there.
"So getting forward quickly and presenting numbers in a straight line is important.
"That’s a starting point for us and Mase and Dave have got a big job there."
Jarrod Mullen vs James Maloney
Mullen's kicking game was spot on against the Tigers last Sunday and he must maintain that high standard for the Knights to beat the Roosters.
"Mullo is probably one of the better long kickers in the NRL, as far as finding space," Stone says.
"His vision and his accuracy and his consistency of timing the footy off the boot was again there to be seen on Sunday.
"We’ll need him to do that and every bit more against the Roosters if we are going to win on Saturday."
Willie Mason vs Jared Waerea-Hargreves
Talk abouty a match-up of epic proportions!
The young buck Waerea-Hargreves up against the experienced bull in Mason.
Big Willie might be in the backend of his career, but the former Test and Origin star still has plenty to offer at the top level.
With Kade Snowden sidelined due to suspension and Beau Scott in Origin camp, the Knights will need Mason to step up big time.
You can bet it's a challenge the big man will welcome with open arms.
Where it will be won:
Newcastle's chances will hinge on their ability to shut down the Roosters' pack.
The defending premiers love nothing more than steamrolling teams in the opening exchanges with their raw power and pure skill.
The Knights must limit this momentum through the middle, whilst also ensuring they have enough petrol left in the tank to pile on some points.
There's no questioning it's a huge task for Newcastle, especially in Sydney, but it's one that could be a season changer if they can turn up and put in a strong performance.