NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v WENTWORTHVILLE MAGPIES
Round 16, 2014 VB NSW Cup
Sunday June 29, Kick-Off: 3pm
Venue: No.2 Sportsground, Newcastle.
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle suffered a comprehensive 50-32 loss to Wentworthville back in Round 8b this season.
Ross, Mantellato, Wilame, P.Mata'utia, C.Mata'utia, Randell, Minto, Likiliki, Waddell, Vaivai, Tahu, Newton, Horwood. Interchange: Redman, Steele, Underwood, Hartin, Elias.
Pewhairaingi, Tangira, Mataele, Raiwalui, Faraimo, Foran, Kelly, Lasalo, Gorman, Moimoi, Ualesi, Ma'afu, Smith. Interchange: Jones, Maliota, Alvaro, Howard.
Cast your mind back to Round 8 and Newcastle were completely outclassed by Wentworthville at Ringrose Park in Sydney.
Too big, too strong was the theme of the day as the Knights crashed to a big 50-32 loss.
Flash forward eight weeks and coach Rick Stone insists his side is a different team and one that’s ready to tackle the might of the Magpies.
"We played them down in Sydney and they were really big, strong and aggressive and we couldn’t handle them," Stone says.
"Our attitude defensively was off and they really made us pay scoring 20 points early and we never really bridged the gap.
"But we’re a chance this time because our side is really starting to strengthen up a little bit.
"If we can defend well enough we can possibly change some angles and turn them around a little bit and use some footwork through the middle.
"So defence is the first port of call and we’ve had a pretty good record at No.2 Sportsground, so we are pretty comfortable there."
Toka Likiliki vs Taniela Lasalo
The barnstorming bookend returns from a hamstring injury and coach Stone couldn't be happier.
"Toka coming back is a good one," he says.
"He is another bit of forward strength, which is good because we’ve lost blokes like in Matty Hilder to injury."
Tyler Randell vs Liam Foran
Described by coach Stone as the 'Mr. Fix It' of his NSW Cup side, Tyler Randell is a player with enormous versatility.
This adaptability will be on show on spades on Sunday when Randell plays five-eighth to cover for the injured Michael Dobson.
"We’ve got a few boys back and we’ve got a bit of flexibility in Tyler, who can help us and has played in a number of positions," Stone says.
"He is likely to fill in at five-eighth this week.
"He has been playing in the back-row recently, but he gets his chance in the halves.
"But wherever we play him, he puts in wholehearted performances."
Brenton Horwood vs Ben Smith
Brenton replaces the injured Matt Hilder at lock.
Stone says his elevation to the starting side is reward for impressive form this season.
"Brenton has been one of our part-timers who has worked tremendously hard in the off-season and has given himself every chance," he says.
"He played in our Indigenous game earlier this year and he has started in our 17 and hasn’t missed a game as yet.
"So he deserves his shot at lock."
Player to Watch:
Newcastle's backline has been strengthened in recent weeks, forcing coach Stone to move veteran campaigner Tahu to the back-row.
"I guess I'm just trying to keep all our best players on the field at once," he says.
"Timana has played centre and a bit of back-row and enjoyed himself and I’d like to think we could get a bit more out of him."
Where it will be won:
The first 20 minutes. Wentworthville blew Newcastle off the park in the opening exchanges back in Round 8 and the Knights can't afford another slow start on Sunday.
For this to happen, big men like Toka Likiliki and Pat Vaivai must step up and take charge up front.
If this happens, then the Knights are more than capable of getting a win on home turf.