NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Close the Gap Round 23 NRL Premiership
Date: Sunday August 17
Kick off: 2pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
Referees: Gavin Morris, Gavin Reynolds
Last time they met:
The New Zealand Warriors defeated the Newcastle 38-18 at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 12. It was a memorable day for the Warriors, winning all three grades on home turf.
The Knights and Warriors have met on 31 occasions. They have won 15 games each, with one draw. The Knights have a slightly better record at home, winning seven of the 13 games played at Hunter Stadium.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. Chanel Mata’utia, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Willie Mason, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Travis Waddell, 15. Korbin Sims, 17. Adam Cuthbertson, 18. David Fa’alogo, 19. Chris Houston.
1. Sam Tomkins, 2. David Fusitua, 3. Ngani Laumape, 4. Ben Henry, 5. Manu Vatuvei, 6. Chad Townsend, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. Jacob Lillyman, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Suaia Matagi, 11. Ben Matulino, 12. Jayson Bukuya, 13. Simon Mannering (c). Interchange: Feleti Mateo, 15. Sam Rapira, 16. Sione Lousi, 17. Nathan Friend, 18. Sebastine Ikahihifo, 21. Dominque Peyroux.
Both the Knights and the Warriors go into Sunday’s Close the Gap match winning five from their last seven matches.
With three from four games at home to finish the season, the Knights have a great opportunity to end the season on a positive note.
The Warriors are playing to secure their spot in the top eight, as are the Knights’ other three opponents before season’s end.
“The Knights can enjoy this last month of football and challenge the teams that are pushing for that top eight finish,” Anthony Quinn said.
“It will be a good test for the team but one they have shown they are up for with wins over the Roosters and Melbourne.”
The Knights welcome back five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, who got through the full training session on Thursday, as well as enforcer Beau Scott.
The Warriors also welcome back a number of their troupes, including playmaker Shaun Johnson.
“The Warriors are always an entertaining side to watch and will be more so with Shaun back this weekend,” Quinn added.
It will be important the Knights stick to their game again and execute their individual roles in Sunday's match against the Warriors.
Where it will be won:
Controlling the off-load.
The Warriors have refined their off-load but remain known for their off-loading ability all over the park. The Knights will need to work hard to control the Warriors second-phase plays. Two players to watch will be Ben Matulino and Shaun Johnson. Feliti Mateo is another, who should come off the bench at around the 20-minute mark to provide an attacking threat. The Knights will need to control them and their off-load to limit their impact on the match.
“With (Sam) Tomkins and Shaun Johnson, there’s a lot of agility and a lot of speed they play with now, so we have a big job in slowing them down this week," Robbie Rochow said on Thursday.