NSW CUP PREVIEW
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CRONULLA SHARKS
Round 22, 2014 NSW CUP
Date: Saturday, August 9
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Last time they met:
The last time the two teams met was in Round 4 of the competition with the Newcastle Knights earning a workmanlike 23-16 win over the Cronulla Sharks at Hunter Stadium.
The match featured a memorable 20 metre try in the corner from Chris Houston, a strong kicking game from Josh Mantellato and a rare field goal from captain Matt Hilder late in the second half. The win allowed the Knights to move into the top four of the VB NSW Cup.
1. Nathan Ross, 22. Josh Mantellato, 3. Pat Mata’utia, 4. Timana Tahu, 5. Brayden Wiliame, 6. Matt Minto, 7. Michael Dobson, 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Chad Redman, 10. Pat Vaivai, 11. Clint Newton, 12. Tyler Randell, 13. Matt Hilder (c) Interchange: 15. Brenton Horwood, 16. Michael Steele, 17. Noel Underwood, 25. James Elias, 30. Toka Likiliki.
1. Nathan Gardner, 2. Travis Robinson 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Justin O’Neill, 5. Young Tonumaipea, 6. Ben Hampton, 7. Daniel Holdsworth, 8. Mark Mexico, 9. Penani Manumalealii, 10. George Rose, 11. Junior Moors, 12. Michael Morris, 13. Scott Sorensen Interchange: 14. Kurt Drysdale, 15. Jake Lawrence, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Josh Portlock.
With the Sharks at number seven on the table and the Knights trailing one point behind in eighth, both sides are hungry for a win to secure a top four finish.
NSW Cup is without Akuila Uate, who has returned to NRL, with Timana Tahu returning to the centres. Brenton Horwood and Noel Underwood are added to an extended bench in an otherwise unchanged line-up from last round’s win over the Illawarra Cutters.
Coach Rick Stone has declared the next couple of games as holding high importance the Knights.
“The Cronulla and Warriors games are really important for NSW Cup,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of difference between eighth place and second place on the table.
“So a couple of wins could propel you forward, while a couple of losses could send you spiralling down."
The Cronulla Sharks, which feeds from the Cronulla and Melbourne clubs, as a good team chocked full of NRL experience.
"We probably need to improve a little bit defensively, bit we’re starting to get into a bit of a groove when we get some consistency with our players," he said.
The Knights are sure to be boosted by the energy of a three game fixture at home at Hunter Stadium.
“It’s good playing at home and I think the boys really enjoy it,” Stone said.
“The surface is good and it has a good Club feel about it with our 20s and NSW Cup playing all together and staying around to watch the NRL game afterwards, so that’s a good feeling.”
Yet, Stone expects the opposition will relish the opportunity just as much.
“Sometimes it’s inviting for the opposition team to come and play at the stadium," Stone admitted.
“They are looking for a really tough game and the next two games will be some of our biggest games of the year, I’d suggest."
This week’s Knights line-up boasts a number of stand-outs for the coach.
“Timana (Tahu) is fine in form after coming back from his knee injury and eventually getting some more game time and is back in the centres this week,” Stone said.
“Young Sam Mataora started last week and is back in the starting side.
“He really showed us that he was up for it.
“Pat Vaivai has also been really good for us for a long, long time.
“He’s been out premier front rower and leads from the front every week."
Where it will be won:
The game will come down to the team’s ability to control the football.
“Cronulla has a real lot of strike, and if we give them enough ball, they can score some points,” Stone revealed.
“Defensively we have to be good.
“Managing the football and controlling the game is really important."
The team will rely on the polished skills and consistent efforts from a number of the Knights experienced players.
“Mick Dobson has been playing really consistently for us and had been controlling our game really well," Stone added.
“To have a player of that quality in our grade is a massive advantage.”
“It will be good to play back at home, and to see all the fans and hopefully they turn out to support the 20s, our game and we have a packed stadium by the time NRL play,” prop Pat Vaivai said.