Newcastle Knights v Wentworthville Magpies
Saturday September 6
Kick off: 12.40pm
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Broadcast: Fox Sports
Last time they met:
The last time these two teams met was in Round 16, this season, when the Newcastle Knights managed a 34-14 win over the Magpies at Newcastle’s No.2 Sportsground. The win was the third in a row for the Knights and saw a double from Chanel Mata’utia.
The teams also played earlier in the season in Round 8b when the Wentworthville beat the Knights 50-32 at Ringrose Park.
1.Nathan Ross, 22. Josh Mantellato, 3. Pat Mata’utia, 25. James Elias, 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 14. Honeti Tuha, 15. Brenton Horwood, 16. Michael Steele, 17. Noel Underwood, 30. Toka Likiliki.
Honeti Tuha has been added to an extended bench in an otherwise unchanged line-up for Saturday's final at Leichhardt Oval.
1. Justin Hunt, 2. Jake Butler-Fleming, 3. KJ MacKenzie, 4. Vai Toutai, 5. Cecil MacKenzie, 6. Api Pewhairaingi, 7. Luke Kelly, 8. Daniel Alvaro, 9. Ben Jones, 10. Isaac Maliota, 11. Pauli Pauli, 12. Lorenzo Ma’afu, 13. Lionel O’Mally. Interchange: 14. Sam Gorman, 15. Takai Moeakiola, 16. Joseph Ualesi, 17. Danny Howard, 18. Nick Kassis.
The Knights head into this clash riding the wave of a seven game winning streak that has seen them go from top eight fringe dwellers to legitimate title contenders.
After finishing the regular season in second, if the Knights win, they advance through to week three of the finals, however if they lose, they will be afforded a second chance and play in week two of the finals.
The Magpies come off a loss to the Panthers last week, but their three previous wins as well as NRL player presence make them no easy test for the Knights.
“We’ve been in fairly decent form, with the last two weeks probably not being our best performances,” Knights NSW Cup coach Rick Stone said.
“Last week with Chad being sent off in the 30th minute, it was a good performance in the second half to win that game.
"The semi finals are about adversity and managing tough conditions, you need to work harder defensively and defences are usually harder to crack.
“Managing that little bit of adversity on the weekend will hopefully hold us in good stead over the next couple of weeks.”
The Knights have recorded one win and one loss to the Magpies already this season.
“The last time we played them we had a convincing win and controlled the game pretty well,” Stone added.
“The first time we played them this season though we felt their big strong forward pack and they did some damage to us.
“Defensively we have to be a bit better than we were on that day and be able to manage the game a bit better.”
It was good news earlier in the week when starting hooker Chad Redman successfully had his striking charge downgraded and therefore available to play in Saturday's final.
Tyler Randell, who made his NRL debut after playing in NSW Cup in the game before last Saturday, will be monitored this week following a head clash late in the match.
The Knights will be further bolstered beyond this weekend with the return of Timana Tahu, Chanel Mata’utia and Travis Waddell from the NRL team.
Where it will be won:
Rick Stone believes the game will go to whoever can manage the defensive component the best.
“Both teams can score a lot of points, and at different stages of the year both teams have shown they can leak some points as well,” he said.
In fact their previous two meetings in 2014 haven’t lacked for attack with some 130 points being posted and there is no reason to think that this match won’t be a free flowing affair either.
Stone says the team aims to throw around the footy and put a bit of pressure back on the opposition.
The coach pinpoints a strong performance from the forwards from the get-go to be central to how the game pans out.
“Sam Mataroa and Pat Vaivai are vital to that start, the metres they get and how well they do defensively,” he added.
“Our halves Matt Minto and Michael Dobson are really important in controlling the game when we get the footy.
"Their kicking game could do damage, semi finals are about building pressure on last play options.”
"There’s a good carrot for both teams," Stone said.
"I think having a week off and progressing to week three of the semi finals is good for anyone to do.
"We’re looking to have a crack at that.”