The nib Newcastle Knights will be out to make it two from two on Saturday evening against the Penrith Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Largely unchanged from the team that downed the Sharks 14-8 last Friday, Herman Ese’ese will make his first appearance of the 2019 season with Daniel Saifiti unavailable due to knee and foot injuries.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v PENRITH PANTHERS
Date: Saturday March 23
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Connor Watson, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kalyn Ponga, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. James Gavet, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Aidan Guerra, 16. Mitch Barnett, 17. Herman Ese'es, 18. Josh King, 19. Jamie Buhrer, 20. Mason Lino, 21. Brodie Jones.
1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6. James Maloney, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. James Fisher-Harris, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Hame Sele. Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan, 15. Frank Winterstein, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Jack Hetherington, 18. Jarome Luai, 19. Tim Grant, 20. Liam Martin, 21. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
McDonald Jones Stadium: 294 Turton Road, Broadmeadow
Available online from Ticketmaster, or call 136 100.
Click here to purchase online!
Getting to the game: Free shuttle bus
Catch the stadium shuttle service to get to nib Newcastle Knights games at McDonald Jones Stadium in 2019.
A free bus services for Knights fans will run every 15 minutes from two hours prior to kick-off from selected bus stops along the route.
Return services will run for around an hour after full-time.
KNIGHTS V PANTHERS THROUGH THE YEARS
Coming away with one win apiece when the two sides faced off last season, the Knights will be eager to renew their spirited rivalry against the Panthers as they look to start a season with back-to-back wins for the fourth time this decade.
Clashing at McDonald Jones Stadium on 24 occasions previously, the Panthers hold a narrow 13-11 advantage at the venue, highlighted by three wins from their past three visits to the Hunter.
While Newcastle hold a slender lead over Penrith with 24 wins, 20 losses and 3 draws in all first grade meetings going back to the late 80s, the past five years has seen the men in black prove too strong for the Novocastrians with seven wins from nine clashes.
PLAY UNTIL THE FINAL WHISTLE
If premierships were awarded to the team most capable of turning an ordinary start into a remarkable finish, the Panthers would leave the rest of the NRL in their wake.
Renown for clicking into gear with the clock winding down, the Knights will have to be switched on for the full 80 minutes on Saturday if they are to finish ahead on the scoreboard.
Scoring the final try in 18 matches last season, the Panthers will have no shortage of attacking threats for the home side to contend with, but as last Friday’s win against the Sharks proved, the Knights of 2019 are capable of seizing match-winning opportunities during the closing stages.
BATTLE OF THE HALVES
Fielding a premiership winner and an Origin young gun in the halves respectively, the duel between Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga versus James Maloney and Nathan Cleary will go a long way towards determining which side comes away with two premiership points.
Winning a competition together during their time at the Roosters, Pearce and Maloney stand as two of the most experienced playmakers in the NRL, both captaining their clubs and with over 200 first grade appearances to their names.
Regarded in certain circles as the best young players in the game today, Ponga and Cleary may only be in their early 20s, but in taking on the responsibility of goal-kicking, demanding the ball when the game is on the line and pulling off clutch plays to boot, the young duo look set to dominate the next decade if previous form is a sign of things to come.
While it takes all 17 players to succeed in an NRL match, the difference between winning and losing will be largely influenced by the halves pairing capable of making the biggest impact on Saturday.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
David Klemmer had a huge impact in his team's first-round home win over the Sharks.
The former Bulldogs prop had 20 runs for 218m, including 90 post-contact metres.
He had 19 hit-ups and three off-loads and also racked up 33 tackles without a single miss.
PANTHERS STAT ATTACK
Penrith had just 40% of possession and completed at 62% last week. Discipline was also an issue with the penalties 10-2 in favour of Parramatta.
Knights v Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium, 3.15pm Saturday.
Knights v Panthers at Dudley Oval, 12pm Saturday.