CRONULLA SHARKS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Round 6, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Friday, April 10
Kick off: 7.35pm
Venue: Remondis Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein
Last time they met:
The Knights came back from an 18-0 deficit to beat the Sharks 31-18 at Remondis Stadium in Wayne Bennett’s 700th game last year.
The Knights have an outstanding record against the Sharks – in 30 games they have won 20, and of the 14 clashes at Remondis, they have won 8.
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. Korbin Sims, 11. Chris Houston, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. David Fa’alogo, 16. Joseph Tapine, 17. Jack Stockwell, 18. Sione Mata’utia.
1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Gerard Beale, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Michael Gordon, 6. Jack Bird, 7. Jeff Robson, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Chris Heighington, 11. Luke Lewis, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Ben Barba, 15. Anthony Tupou, 16. Matt Prior, 17. David Fifita, 18. Tinirau Arona, 19. Jayson Bukuya.
The Knights lost their first game of 2015 last Saturday night and no doubt the men in red and blue will still be smarting when they kick off Round 6 on Friday evening.
While there are plenty of rough edges to polish, Michael Hagan thinks fatigue was the main concern last week.
“Energy across the board was down for whatever reason, and they have had a fairly tough month to start the season off,” Hagan explains.
“I guess Rick Stone is somewhat concerned about the amount of work they’ve done in the first four games, which was evident against the Dragons.”
While the Knights edged the game in possession and territory, they never really looked like scoring.
Considering the Knights have only been held scoreless four times in the last 25 years, that will be a point of concern for Stone and his coaching staff.
What will make things even more difficult for the Knights is that they are coming up against a Sharks side that will still be bouncing from their impressive 20-12 win over the Roosters.
Jack Bird was masterful in only his second NRL appearance, scoring two tries from five-eighth.
“He’s been talked about for a year or two at youth level, and on the weekend he seemed very composed and showed a lot of skill at different times,” Hagan acknowledges.
“He and Valentine Holmes were both really impressive in what they did.”
Holmes, a 19-year-old backline utility, was nearly as good as Bird at Allianz Stadium as he scored a try, made more than 200 metres in attack and played at both fullback and wing.
The Knights aren’t without their own young guns, though.
20-year-old Joseph Tapine has been turning heads in the NSW Cup in the opening month of the season and earned a recall to the NRL extended bench this week after making a cameo from the bench in Round 4 against the Panthers.
“Joe Tapine has been quite impressive in what he’s been doing in the last couple of weeks, and he’ll bring a bit of aggression and leg speed to the team,” Hagan says.
“He’s been in our system for a while now and I think he’s an NRL player in the making.”
Tariq Sims will also be making just his second start for the Knights on Friday night, linking up with brother Korbin for the first time at club level.
“For Tariq Sims it’s a matter of him getting his timing and his match fitness up first of all, and then he can put his stamp on the game where he can,” Hagan explains.
While Tariq’s legs would have been more than a little sore after Round 5, he also put in one of the Knights’ better performances with 180 metres in attack and 41 tackles in defence.
Korbin Sims was in a similar vein of form before suspension ruled him out, and fans will be eager to see how the two brothers can combine up front.
Another player that Stone will be looking for a solid 80-minute performance from is Chris Houston, who was impressive when slotting into the back row for Robbie Rochow against the Panthers in Round 4.
While his early try was the obvious highlight, a tireless effort in defence was one of the main reasons the Knights managed to hang on in the second half.
“Chris will be comfortable playing alongside Mullen on that side, while Tariq will form that combination with Tyrone Roberts on the left side as we go along,” Hagan added.
Where it will be won:
“Their forward pack is very strong – they’ve got Luke Lewis back in their pack, Paul Gallen seems to be pretty much injury free, the Fifita brothers are a handful and Michael Ennis is still finding his feet - but I think he’ll be a guy we need to contain on the weekend,” Hagan says.
“They were pretty good in the World Cup and they tear into each other at training,” Jeremy Smith said of the Sims brothers at a press conference on Tuesday morning.
“They’re good to watch so we’ll see what happens.”
FREE TRANSPORT - The Newcastle Knights encourage all Knights fans to take advantage of the free train travel to Remondis Stadium this Friday to cheer on your team against the Cronulla Sharks. Simply show your match day ticket to board the train between Newcastle and Cronulla. CLICK HERE for more information.