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Pearce prepares for halves battle against old mate

Coming off a loss in Round 1, the Panthers will be hungry for redemption.

They’ll be desperate to notch up that first win for 2019…. And the Newcastle Knights are well aware.

“Penrith are going to come back super hard,” said Mitchell Pearce.

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“If you lose the first game you’re going to rocket and come back hard.

“Penrith are a quality side; obviously a loss and they’re going to be disappointed.”

It will force the Knights to up the ante this week.

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They’ll need to increase their level of intensity and come prepared for a battle at home.

The Knights captain has no doubt Penrith will look to their seniors players for guidance.

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He believes his old NSW halves partner James Maloney will be a key factor in their performance on Saturday.

“I think the leader of that team is James Maloney,” added Pearce.

“I think he is the older head and he seems to have a lot more touches of the ball so he’s a player we’ve got to stop.

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“It’s always a test, I always love coming up against Jimmy.

“He’s always got plenty to say.”

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Paired with Nathan Cleary, the Panthers duo will be a definite blip on the radar for the Knights this weekend.

Much like the Pearce and Kalyn Ponga combo, the Panthers halves pairing is a mix of experience and young talent.

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“Jimmy is a seasoned, great footballer and Cleary is a real up and coming player and had a good year last year,” maintained Pearce.

“They’re two quality Origin halves.”