Reserve Grade match preview: Round 21

Newcastle Knights v Illawarra
Date: Saturday July 29
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 12.40pm

Squads

Newcastle

1. Nick Meaney, 2. Tom Hughes, 3. Brendan Elliot, 4. Jacob Gagan, 5. Thomas Cronan, 6. Jaelen Feeney, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Tyrone Amey, 9. Tyler Randell, 10. Jack Stockwell, 11. Sam Stone, 12. Braden Robson, 13. Bradie Smith. Interchange: 14. Will Pearsall, 15. Faitotoa Faitotoa, 16. Pat Mata’utia, 17. Pasami Saulo, 18. Joey Morris, 19. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, 20. Sam Bernstrom.

Illawarra

1.Jordan Pereira, 2. Kalifa Faifai Loa, 3. Patrick Herbert, 4. Matheson Johns, 5. Izaac Thompson, 6. Adam Clune, 7. Jack Payne, 8. Jacob Hind, 9. Jake Marketo, 10. Blake Lawrie, 11. Will Matthews, 12. Luciano Leilua, 13. Hame Sele. Interchange. 14. Sam Clune, 15. Jesse Dee, 16. Josh Kerr, 17. Rhys Kennedy, 21. Kal Collins.

Match Analysis

Reserve Grade Newcastle Knights coach Simon Woolford has left his side unchanged for the clash against Illawarra.

He has continued to put faith in halves combination Jack Cogger and Jaelen Feeney.

“I thought they did a pretty good job and they did some nice things,” Woolford stated.

“The defence put us under a bit of pressure at times and we didn’t handle it so we’ve looked at that and looked at ways we can do that better this week if Illawarra look to defend the same.”

Despite the disappointing two-point loss in the last minute against the North Sydney Bears on Sunday, Woolford admits there were a lot of things he was pleased with.

“We did a lot of things right last week and just let ourselves down at the back end of the game so happy to have the same team and look to improve on what we did last week,” he said.

“We just let ourselves down at crucial times and it was a game we really should have won.

“We have got to let that go now because it’s an important game this week and we’ve got a bye next week.”

Sitting just ahead of Illawarra in eighth place and coming off a crushing defeat to the Penrith Panthers last week, the ISP coach maintains their opponents will be hungry to get the win to leapfrog for a spot further up the ladder.

“We are playing against a team that is pretty desperate,” Woolford explained.

“Eight weeks ago, they were sitting in the top four and now they’re struggling to stay in the top eight.

“We are at home so we need to make sure that we start well and put in our own good performance.”

Woolford believes an advantage over Illawarra is the disruptions they’ve faced over the past two month.

“They have had three or four players go and play in England so their team has been a little bit unsettled and I’d imagine they’re going to improve week to week,” added Woolford.

“They have got a couple of new guys in their halves and some guys in their forward pack that are decent players.

“Blake Lawrie, Luciano Leilua and Hame Sele, these sorts of guys that have had NRL experience so they are the guys we’re going to have to do a good job on that’s for sure.”

Where it will be won

The Reserve Grade coach said they simply need to be better than last week.

“We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities to finish the game off and we were a little out, particularly with our attack,” Woolford admitted.

“It wasn’t as good as it’s been over the past six weeks so we just need to tidy that up.

“Defensively we did another good job so we just maintain that and be a little smarter with the footy and I think we’ll give ourselves a good chance.”