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It's a top of the table clash in the Jersey Flegg competition this weekend.

The Newcastle Knights take on the Penrith Panthers in what's expected to be a high action encounter for the opening 20s match.

Penrith is keen to steal that top spot away from an in-form Knights, with both teams meeting for the first time this season.

The way the visitors are tracking defensively, Newcastle have their work cut out for them.

"Scoring points on Saturday will be difficult, they're the best defensive team in the comp as of now," said coach Todd Lowrie.

"We played the Bulldogs last week who are now the second best and at the time against the Bulldogs we struggled to put on some shape against them, so the challenge this week against an even better defensive team is to see whether we can execute our plays well to come up with some points."

And the road doesn't get much easier for the Knights leading into finals.

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"We've got a pretty tough month coming up over the next four-five weeks. We play the top four sides, all the ones that will be there when the whips are cracking," Lowrie explained.

"We play Panthers twice, I think Parramatta once and Mounties once who beat us earlier in the year, so we need to put in a good performance to beat those top teams this time of the year.

"Hopefully the players aren't looking too far ahead but we will definitely be in the semis, although it's important where we finish and that we take some form into the finals."



This Saturday will be a big test for the 20s side.

Missing a few of their regular players and injury won't do them any favours.

Big forward Henry-Siriah Fuimaono is looking at about a month on the sidelines after a broken finger in last week's clash with the Dogs.

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The Knights will also loose key playmaker Matt Cooper who has been rewarded for his solid year with a game in ISP this week.

The versatile Tex Hoy will step into the custodian role, while thankfully Nash Birch is back from injury to slot into the halves.

"Coops was our best player last weekend and has been playing well lately so he'll be missed but Tex Hoy has also had his time in ISP and has been doing pretty well for us as well," Lowrie added.

"I'm not sure what Tex's most natural position is, whether it is five-eighth or fullback, he's pretty handy in both, but he's certainly capable and some of his best games of the year have been at fullback so I'm excited to see him back there.


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"We welcome back Nash Birch who has been out with injury. Nash was a mainstay for the majority of the year, so he's got his way back into the team.

"It's good a few of the younger guys (from 18s) get games of footy this time of the year to get a few more people in and around the team so we can have a healthy squad over the next month or so."

1.Tex Hoy, 2. Justin Worley, 3. Heath Gibbs, 4. Mitch Andrews, 5. Elijah Rasiga, 6. Nash Birch, 7. Hayden Loughrey, 8. Jirah Momoisea, 9. Tom Starling, 10. Henry-Siriah Fuimaono, 11. Kurtis Dark, 12. Beau Fermor, 13. Mat Croker. Interchange. 14. Luke Huth, 15. Brandon Russell, 16. Tevita Alifa, 17. Joe Bromage.

Saturday, July 21 – Round 19 Jersey Flegg
Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers
ISP kick-off: 11am
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium