Round 18, 2014 NRL Premiership
CRONULLA SHARKS V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Sunday, July 13 Kick-Off: 3pm
Venue: Remondis Stadium, Cronulla
Referees: Ashley Klein, Adam Gee
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle recorded a clinical 30-0 victory over the Sharks at Hunter Stadium in Round 4 this season.
The Knights have won seven of their past nine clashes against the Sharks dating back to 2010.
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Mullen, Gidley (c), Snowden, Clydsdale, Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Interchange: Roberts, Houston, Cuthbertson, Sims.
Gordon, Feki, Wright, Leutele, Gagan, Brown, Robson, Tagataese, Lichaa, Gibbs, Lewis, Graham, Gallen (c). Interchange: Politoni, Vave, Arona, Tupou.
One look at the competition table would suggest this match is the ultimate battle to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.
The Knights and Sharks are in 14th and 16th position respectively, so this clash could go a long way to deciding who finishes last.
Delve beyond the table though and you'll discover two sides that have rediscovered their best form in recent weeks.
Newcastle has won their past two clashes, while the Sharks have done likewise with big come-from-behind wins over Brisbane and the Roosters.
This will ensure Sunday's clash is played with plenty of spirit and desire.
The Sharks deserve slight favouritism given the match is in Cronulla, but the Knights should go in confident given they've won their past three games at Remondis Stadium.
Darius Boyd vs Michael Gordon
Boyd is back to his best and he'll need to continue that form to help the Knights topple the Sharks.
The Queensland Origin star performed well in the final Origin on Wednesday night and coach Bennett will be looking for a similar effort against the Cronulla on Sunday.
Standing in Boyd's way is Sharks No.1 Gordon, a player with a heap of skill and speed to match.
Kurt Gidley vs Jeff Robson
Gidley has excelled playing halfback in the past fortnight after starting the season at hooker.
Whether its his up-tempo style of play or instinctive nature, the skipper looks dangerous every time he touches the football.
Gidley's combination with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen is also developing, which is hugely promising for the Knights' prospects moving forward.
Kurt's one-on-one match-up with Robson, a player who has starred for the Sharks in the past fortnight, shapes as a genuine cracker.
Beau Scott vs Luke Lewis
From friends to foes in less than a week.
That's the predicament facing Scott and Lewis this Sunday when they line-up against each other, just days after holding the Origin shield aloft as triumphant NSW teammates.
Scott has been in career-best form this season in attack and defence, while Lewis is the type of wholehearted player any coach would want in his team.
The Knights will be hoping their in-form forward backs-up from Origin with another strong display to lead them to victory.
Where it will be won:
Newcastle delivered their first full 80-minute performance of the year against Parramatta before the bye and they'll need to replicate that effort to beat Cronulla.
The Sharks have proven to be one of the NRL's most resilient teams, on-and-off the field, so the Knights will have to be at their best to get the win away from home.
Watch for forwards Kade Snowden, Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott to all star against the former club, allowing halves Mullen and Gidley to take control of the match.