NRL match preview: Round 8

The string of away matches continues for the nib Newcastle Knights this week, as they travel down to Sydney to take on the Manly Sea Eagles.

Last time out the red and blues recorded a famous victory over the Wests Tigers, but are now without co-captain and halfback Mitchell Pearce.

MANLY SEA EAGLES v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS


Date: Friday April 26
Gates: 4.30pm
Kick-off: 6pm
Venue: Lottoland
Referee: Adam Gee

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 49
Knights: 18
Manly: 31

TEAMS

Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Nathan Ross, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Luke Yates, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Cory Denniss, 19. Josh King, 20. Brock Lamb, 21. Jacob Lillyman.

Manly
1. Tom Trbojevic, 2. Matthew Wright, 3. Dylan Walker, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Lachlan Croker, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Addin Fonua-Blake, 9. Api Koroisau, 10. Martin Taupau, 11. Joel Thompson, 12. Jack Gosiewski, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Lewis Brown, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Lloyd Perrett, 17. Taniela Paseka, 18. Frank Winterstein, 19. Jonathan Wright, 20. Tom Wright, 21. Toafofoa Sipley.

ONE IN, ONE OUT


While nobody wanted to see Pearce sidelined after suffering a ruptured pectoral last weekend, Connor Watson has timed his return from injury to perfection.

The five-eighth has been recovering from a shoulder injury since Round 3, and being able to avoid surgery means he has only missed four games.

Now Watson comes back into the side with some added responsibility, alongside halfback Jack Cogger.

While Cogger played a somewhat unfamiliar role in the win over the Wests Tigers, he now gets to play his natural role of organiser while Watson will hopefully get the chance to take advantage of his strong running game.

BROOKVALE HOODOO


The red and blues haven't won at Brookvale since 2006, but the team will be full of confidence after defeating the silvertails at home back in Round 1.

On top of that, Manly have had a horror run of form over the last three weeks, conceding a whopping 18 tries against the Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels.

The Knights haven't won consecutive games since back in Rounds 1 and 2, and the players know they need to start putting together consistent performances if they want to make the finals for the first time since 2013.

So now is the perfect time to break a 12-year Brookvale hoodoo, despite Pearce's sudden absence.

Experienced players such as Aidan Guerra, Chris Heighington and Slade Griffin have strong records against the maroon and whites, and won't find the hostile atmosphere overly daunting.

PONGA V TRBOJEVIC


In Kalyn Ponga and Tom Trbojevic, the Knights and Sea Eagles have two of the most exciting young fullbacks in the game.

Although Ponga has already been playing out of his skin so far this season, he will need to take on some added playmaking pressure with Pearce out.

The calm and composed 20-year-old is more than capable of taking on the added responsibility, while Trbojevic has had a decent start to 2018 with six line breaks and five try assists.

The forwards will be laying the platform for both sides, but the final result will heavily rely on which fullback has the better attacking game.

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