Newcastle Knights v Illawarra Cutters
Sunday September 21
Kick off: 3.10pm
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Broadcast: Fox Sports
Last time they met:
Sunday’s preliminary final will be the third time the teams meet this season.
The first clash was in Round 17 when the Illawarra Cutters downed the Newcastle Knights 26-0 at Jubilee Stadium.
The second match-up saw the Knights redeem their earlier scoreless loss to record a 38-16 victory over the Cutters at Newcastle’s No. 2 Sportsground.
With the score now level, both teams will not only be hungry to prove their dominance, but more importantly secure their spot in the NSW Cup grand final.
1.Nathan Ross, 22. Josh Mantellato, 3. Pat Mata’utia, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 5. Chanel Mata’utia, 6. Matt Minto, 7. Michael Dobson, 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Chad Redman, 10. Pat Vaivai, 11. Clint Newton, 12. Timana Tahu, 13. Matt Hilder (c). Interchange 14. Travis Waddell, 15. Tyler Randell, 16. Michael Steele, 17. Brenton Horwood, 25. James Elias, 30. Toka Likiliki.
1.Brad Abbey, 2. Ngataua Hukatai, 3. Nathaniel Roache, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Metia Lisati, 6. Tuimoala Lolohea, 7. Mason Lino, 8. Sam Lisone, 9. Kurt Robinson, 10. Kouma Samson, 11. Marata Niukore, 12. Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, 13. Jazz Tevaga. Interchange: 14. James Bell, 15. Toafofoa Sipley, 16. Ken Maumalo, 17. Iulio Afoa, 20. Ofahiki Ogen.
The Newcastle Knights enter Sunday's preliminary final against the Illawarra Cutters with confidence coming off an eight game winning streak that entitled the side to a week off.
The Cutters suffered a heavy 42-6 defeat to the Penrith Panthers in the first week of the finals but turned it around in their next encounter against the in-form New Zealand Warriors to record a 29-12 win.
Coach Rick Stone believes the week off will prove an advantage for the Knights.
“This has given us the chance to freshen up a little bit, get over some niggling injuries and get a couple of players back,” he said.
Meanwhile, returning NRL players Chanel Mata’utia, Timana Tahu and Travis Waddell are set to strengthen the line-up.
“They are all quality players and have been playing first grade the last few weeks so it will definitely boost confidence for the boys,” Stone said.
“Chanel's plays are terrific and Timana’s line breaking ability gives you a bit of x-factor in the semi final."
The coach isn’t worried about a loss of momentum, as the team has been focused and diligent at training during the break.
“It’s always a bit difficult because when you are on a roll, playing every week is important, but we had a really good session Saturday and that started the build up this week to get ready for Sunday,” he assured.
“Our start to our games can be important, especially after a week off when players can feel slow out of the blocks.
“We’re going to really concentrate on that and give it a good crack.”
Stone acknowledges the Cutters are made more formidable given four first graders are available to play in the side this weekend.
"They got beaten convincingly in their first semi, but like us, they have a number of quality players coming back into their team,” he said.
“You saw it in their performance against the Warriors, they were much improved because their last month hasn’t been the best, but they definitely got up last week.”
Stone identified Michael Dobson at halfback as being extremely important to the side’s success as well as front rowers Sam Mataora and Pat Vaivai, who have proved an integral part of the team.
“The balance of the team is pretty good," he added.
“The squad is in good spirits and have plenty of energy.”
The winner of this encounter plays the winner of the Penrith Panthers v Wentworthville Magpies match in the NSW Cup grand final.
Where it will be won:
“Playing finals is about starting with plenty of energy, being disciplined and holding composure,” Stone said.
“It’s important errors are minimised to give yourself a chance.
“I think if we do that and play to our best we’ll be really competitive.
“A lot of teams can get ahead of themselves, so it’s been a really big focus for us to not think to far ahead.
“I don’t want the boys to talk about anything other than what they’ve got in front of them this weekend.”
Chanel and Pat Mata’utia have more than one reason to be excited about this weekend’s grand final decider.
The pair are set to take on their eldest brother Peter, who is named in the centres for the Illawarra Cutters.
“I played Pete in our last NRL game and that was cool, especially because I played alongside Sione,” Chanel said.
“I know Pete's going to try to be tough.”