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Knights v Wests Tigers: Late changes for both teams

Two teams that will take stock at the end of the regular season and wonder what might've been.

The Knights could've easily had a few more wins under their belt if experienced field general Mitchell Pearce hadn't missed nine games - seven of which were losses.

Injuries also haven't been kind to the Wests Tigers but they had their chances to consolidate a top eight spot at various stages of the season.

They looked like they were coming home strong with back-to-back wins over the Dragons and Rabbitohs, only to lose their way last week against the Bulldogs.

They managed to stay in the finals race after the Warriors lost to the Titans, but the Tigers are fighting an uphill battle to pinch eighth spot.

Key match-up: Moses Mbye will be keen for a big performance after a forgettable game in last week's loss to his former team. The same goes for Kalyn Ponga after an uncharacteristically so-so display in the loss to the Cowboys. The clash between two of the NRL's most exciting fullbacks could be decisive.

For the Knights to win: It'll be interesting to see how the Knights respond after blowing a match-winning lead to the Cowboys. They need Pearce and Ponga to take turns running the offence and keep the defensive-minded Tigers guessing all night.

Knights v Wests Tigers - Round 21

For the Tigers to win: After beating the Dragons and Souths, Wests failed to show up last week against a team they were expected to dispose of comfortably. They won't be as complacent on Friday night. The Tigers have to stay in Pearce's face defensively to keep him from settling into a groove and and keep close tabs on the mercurial Ponga.

Knights Stat Attack: Newcastle came out on top of virtually every key statistical battle with the Cowboys last week. They finished with a superior completion rate, missed fewer tackles, made fewer errors and conceded fewer penalties, but it still didn't add up to a win.

Wests Tigers Stat Attack: It's no secret that the Tigers aren't the most prolific attacking team, ranking second-last in points scored. On the positive side, they can match it with pretty much every team from a defensive standpoint, ranking fifth in points conceded. Among the teams that have conceded more are the Dragons, Broncos, Panthers and Warriors.

And another thing: Shaun Kenny-Dowall will chalk up his 250th NRL game on Friday against the Tigers. The 30-year-old played 224 games in almost 11 seasons for the Roosters before joining the Knights midway through last season. His former Roosters comrade and current Newcastle teammate Pearce notches his 250th in round 22 against the Warriors.

Using the NRL app? See the round 21 team lists here

Knights: In the lone positional change made an hour before kick-off, Josh King will start after Herman Ese'ese was shifted back to the interchange bench. Connor Watson was left out of the Knights team 24 hours out from kick-off, with Jack Cogger (No.20) named to start at five-eighth. Cory Denniss replaces Nathan Ross at centre. JJ Felise makes his club debut on the bench, with Herman Ese'ese starting at prop and Jacob Lillyman out. After Watson and Luke Yates were dropped from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off, Jacob Lillyman and Ross were left out an hour before kick-off.

Wests Tigers: In a series of late positional changes in the back row, Luke Garner (No.12) drops back to the bench, Elijah Taylor moves from lock to the second-row and Matt Eisenhuth (No.17) goes from the bench to a spot in the starting side at lock. Garner is joined by Alex Twal, Sauaso Sue and Jacob Liddle on the bench.

Head-to-head: Played 25; Knights 13 wins, Wests Tigers 12 wins
Previous result: Knights won 22-20 at Scully Park, Tamworth in round 7
Points per game: Knights 18.3; Wests Tigers 15.2
Points conceded per game: Knights 25.7; Wests Tigers 17.5
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League

Petero Civoniceva's prediction: This is an interesting clash. The Knights were pretty strong last week but they just fell victim to a bit of JT brilliance. The Tigers were disappointing against the Bulldogs, but I'm going to stick with them to win this game in a close one. Ivan Cleary will no doubt make his players realise they let a crucial game slip away and I can see them bouncing back this week. If they're going to sneak into the finals they pretty much have to win every game from here on in.

Tip: Wests Tigers by 6