NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Round 4, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Saturday, March 28
Kick off: 3.00pm local time
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Referee: Jared Maxwell
Last time they met:
The Panthers beat the Knights 32-10 on an inclement afternoon at Hunter Stadium in Round 9 last year.
Of the 40 matches played between the two sides, the Knights have come out on top with 22 wins. Until last season the Knights had a four year unbeaten run against the Panthers.
1. Kurt Gidley (c), 2. James McManus, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. David Fa’alogo, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15 Chris Houston, 16. Pat Vaivai, 17. Jack Stockwell, 18. Sione Mata'utia.
1. Matt Moylan, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Jamal Idris, 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak, 6. Isaac John, 7. Peter Wallace (c), 8. Sam McKendry, 9. James Segeyaro, 10. Brent Kite, 11. Sika Manu, 12. Lewis Brown, 13. Elijah Taylor. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. Jeremy Latimore, 16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 17. Bryce Cartwright.
While the Knights have started 2015 in determined spirit, they will have to raise their game to a new level if they want to get one over the Panthers.
This will be the Knights’ first chance to test themselves against a team that finished in the top four last year and is looking the goods again so far this season.
While the Panthers thrashed the Titans 40-0 in Round 2 they did falter against the Roosters on Monday night, which is something Michael Hagan thinks the Knights can learn some lessons from.
“I think the Roosters defence across the board was very strong… they seemed to have a very good game plan of how to contain players like James Segeyaro and Matt Moylan at the back,” Hagan explains.
“So I’m sure Rick Stone will be looking at some of the things the Roosters did in their defence on Monday night.”
One of the Panthers that did manage to break the Roosters defence on Monday was towering centre Jamal Idris, who scored a try late in the first half and has four from three games so far this season.
He will be coming up against Dane Gagai, who is in similar fine form.
“Jamal Idris has been strong… he is the sort of player who if he’s in the right frame of mind he’s in the top three or four centres running around in our game,” Hagan says.
“Dane probably has a bit better footwork and speed, but they both bring different qualities to their game.”
Stone will be looking for Jarrod Mullen to take advantage of Jamie Soward’s absence, due to injury, with his own kicking game, which could go a long way towards the Knights seizing the territorial advantage.
The men in red and blue have their own hole that needs to be filled though, with prop Korbin Sims out for two weeks through suspension.
Pat Vaivai has been impressive in NSW Cup so far this season and will step up to the NRL bench with David Fa’alogo shifting to a starting spot.
“There’ll be a slightly different role for some players with Korbin Sims out in terms of how many minutes they have to play,” Hagan says.
“I’m sure Rick will manage Pat Vaivai’s level of time as it’s only his second game of NRL.”
While Vaivai has been making big minutes in the NSW Cup, the level of intensity in the NRL is something else and Kade Snowden may have to spend a little more time on the field to help the young prop out.
What will certainly help the team lift is Voice for Mining Day, which should see a bumper crowd at Hunter Stadium to cheer the home team on.
“I think Voice for Mining Day will help the team, it’s a really positive promotion that the Knights ran last year and I think the fans will get behind it because of the community we’re in,” Hagan says.
“With the fact the team’s going really well, hopefully we’ll get a good mix of members, fans and NSW mining friends and family there too.”
Where it will be won:
Around the ruck.
The Panthers are one of the best teams in the competition in this area. “Segeyaro just triggers so much of their attack,” Hagan explains.
“So if we can do a job on him defensively I think that will go a long way towards winning the game.”
That means the Knights will need big games from Adam Clydsdale and Kurt Gidley.
While the Knights haven’t always started games well, coach Rick Stone is pleased with how his side finishes. “We are showing some good qualities late in games and you judge that by your kick chase, your line speed and your little effort areas,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.