Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers
Sunday September 28
Kick off: 3.10pm
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Broadcast: Fox Sports
Last time they met:
Sunday’s grand final will be the third match up this season between the Newcastle Knights and the Penrith Panthers.
The Knights opened the season with a 24-14 win over the Panthers in Penrith in Round 1. An early lead in the first half of the game meant the Panthers scrambled to keep up.
Then in Round 9, the Knights went down to the Panthers 38-16 at Cessnock Sportsground. This time, a try-scoring blitz in the final 20 minutes of the game was too much for the Knights to fight back.
1. Nathan Ross, 22. Josh Mantellato, 3. Brayden Wiliame, 4. Pat Mata’utia, 5. Chanel Mata’utia, 6. Matt Minto, 7. Michael Dobson, 8. Sam Mataora, 9. Chad Redman, 10. Pat Vaivai, 11. Clint Newton, 18. 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.Kieran Moss, 2. Eto Nabuli, 3.Waqa Blake 4. Wes Naiqama, 5. Tom Eisenhuth, 6. Luke Capewell 7. Tom Humble, 8. Leilani Latu, 9. Kevin Kingston 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. Isaah Yeo, 12. Nathan Smith, 13. Ryan Simpkins. Interchange 14. Vaipuna, Tia Kilifi, 15. Kierran Moseley, 16. Andy Saunders, 17. Daniel Foster, 18. Liam Ayoub.
The Knights finished second on the ladder with 34 points, winning 15 matches and losing 9.
The Panthers were minor premiers with 44 points. The side won 20 games and lost four.
The last time Newcastle won the reserve grade premiership was in 1995.
The NSW Cup premiership is what the Knights have been working towards all season, and this Sunday will see the side fight it out against the Penrith Panthers to claim the glory.
Despite earlier encounters this season, coach Rick Stone said both teams are vastly different since the match-ups.
“I don’t think I’ll worry about previous form,” he said.
“The first game was a long time ago, and to be honest, we were a little but down on troupes last time.
“Then in Round 9, we led them 16-nil on that day and got rolled 34-16 when we fell apart in the back end."
The Knights expect the Panthers to present one of the biggest challenges of the season.
“Their form has been great all year, they deserve their position as minor premiers, but our form in the last couple of months has been good," Stone added.
But the Knights have pulled out many of their strongest efforts as the underdog.
“We’ve been building for a while now and we’re continually gaining confidence and getting a good feel among our group,” Stone said.
“We still need to improve to beat Penrith and defensively we need to go up a notch."
The key to success on Sunday will be consistency and the ability to perform for the full 80 minutes.
“To beat the Panthers we need to be really good in both halves, not just one half, that’s the goal for this weekend,” Stone said.
“In the back end of the game we need to manage that a bit better and minimise errors."
Stone commended the team for having the tenacity to turn around a seven game losing streak earlier this year to claw it’s way to second on the ladder with nine straight wins now under its belt.
“The last few months have been really good,” he said.
“The boys have enjoyed each other’s company and have really played for each other.
"We’ve been pretty selfless through the year helping out the first grade team, it’s time for those boys to do something for themselves now.”
Where it will be won:
“The team that can hold their nerve will perform the best, because that’s really important in grand finals,” Stone said.
“It’s about not making mistakes and making sure we stick to what you know, and not going outside the things that have worked for you all year.
“We have to concentrate on that and believe that what we’ve been doing the last couple of months have been good for us."
To add to the side’s astounding season, teammates Josh Mantellato, Nathan Ross, Michael Dobson and Tyler Randell were named in the NSW Cup 2014 Team of the Year.
Tyler Randell said the achievement added to the buzz of last week’s preliminary final win against the Illawarra Cutters and is a personal boost as the Knights advance to grand final.
“It will be a really tough game on Sunday, but I have no doubt we can knock them off," Randell said.
CLICK HERE for ticket information and how to support the Knights on Sunday when they take on the Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium in the NSW Cup grand final.