NRL match preview: Round 9
The red and blues head back to Queensland in Round 9, as the last chance to grab some points before the Representative Bye looms.
There are again several changes to the Knights side, with Jaelen Feeney taking on the halfback role and Mitch Barnett ruled out through an ankle injury picked up last weekend.
GOLD COAST TITANS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Saturday April 29
Gates open: 12.40pm
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Jaelen Feeney, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Luke Yates. Interchange: 14. Anthony Tupou, 15. Joe Wardle, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Pauli Pauli, 19. Tyler Randell, 20. Josh King, 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
1. Jarryd Hayne, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Tyrone Roberts-Davis, 6. Tyrone Roberts, 7. Ash Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Ryan James, 11. Chris McQueen, 12. Kevin Proctor, 13. Ryan Simpkins. Interchange: 14. Kane Elgey, 15. Joe Greenwood, 16. Paterika Vaivai, 17. Leivaha Pulu, 18. Morgan Boyle, 19. Pat Politoni, 20. Nathaniel Peteru, 21. Alexander Brimson.
It was only seven weeks ago that these teams last met, with the Knights beating the Titans 34-26 at home back in Round 3.
After the Titans lost a number of players to injury, they will be close to full-strength again this weekend.
“They took the Brisbane (Broncos) to the dying moment and they beat Cronulla (Sharks) on the weekend so this is no team you can look past and look through,” Nathan Ross said earlier in the week.
“I think they’re a team of unsung heroes, they turn up every single week and they get in the grind.”
When one player is injured, another gets their opportunity.
This was the case this week, when Mitch Barnett was ruled out for an extended period of time.
Local junior Luke Yates has been named to fill Barnett’s place at lock, and was named Players’ Player last weekend when he started in the second row for an absent Joe Wardle and Jamie Buhrer.
“We beat them (the Titans) last time so I think we’re going up there pretty confident we can do the same job again up at the Gold Coast,” Yates told Knights TV on Sunday.
Barnett’s absence also provides space for Pauli Pauli on the extended bench, who has impressed on his return from a car accident back in the pre-season.
If Pauli does make his NRL comeback this weekend, it will be well deserved.
“To see him moving out there, he is a lot lighter and I think once he does come back in the full time team the NRL is going to see a Pauli (Pauli) 2.0,” Ross said of the big man.
Key is defence
Both the Knights and the Titans have conceded approximately five tries per match so far in 2017, and it is a trend that the coaches will be keen to stop.
While the Titans have conceded two more tries than the Knights this season, they have also scored ten tries more.
To come away with a win, the red and blues will have to frustrate a naturally attacking Titans side. Jarryd Hayne, Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts can all trouble defences with their unpredictable plays, so that is something the Knights will be looking to address in training during the week.
“All the boys have had good training this week and I’m sure they’re really pumped up and excited to get out there,” Danny Levi said.
“The Titans are actually hitting some form at the moment, so they’re going to be a lot tougher than last time.”
THE FINAL SAY
We need a bit of belief around the place again because it is not a nice thing losing every week,” the returning Wardle said on Wednesday.
“We are working hard, the effort is there, we just need to be smart with what we’re doing as well.”