Ultimate Guide: On the road to New Zealand

The nib Newcastle Knights head across the Tasman on Sunday afternoon to take on the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.

Producing a much-needed 28-14 win over Parramatta last Sunday, coach Nathan Brown has kept the same side. 

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v WARRIORS

Date: Sunday, May 5

Kick-off: 2.00pm (AEST)

Venue: Mt Smart Stadium

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 39

Knights: 18

Warriors: 20

Draw: 1

TEAMS

Newcastle

1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Tim Glasby. Interchange: 14. Sione Mata'utia, 15. Herman Ese’ese, 16. James Gavet, 17. Josh King, 18. Mason Lino, 19. Kurt Mann, 20. Jmaie Buhrer, 21. Pasami Saulo. 

Warriors

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (C), 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Patrick Herbert, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Chanel Harris-Tavita, 7 Blake Green, 8 Agnatius Paasi, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Leeson Ah Mau, 11 Isaiah Papali’I, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Lachlan Burr. Interchange: 14 Nathaniel Roache, 15 Adam Blair, 16 Bunty Afoa, 17 Gerard Beale, 18 Hayze Perham, 20 Solomone Kata, 21 Ligi Sao, 23 Chris Satae

ACROSS THE DITCH

Coming away with eight wins and a draw from 22 visits to Mt Smart Stadium over the years, the Knights will be looking to break a poor record that has produced one win from 13 appearances in New Zealand since 2006.

Fighting back from 18-0 down to win 24-19 - equalling the club’s greatest ever comeback - when Newcastle last triumphed in Auckland seven years ago, a win on Sunday afternoon would also see coach Nathan Brown win his first match across the Tasman since 2004.

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE

Regarded as the top two players in the NRL as per last year’s Dally M rankings, the showdown between Kalyn Ponga and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will pit the superstar fullbacks in a personal duel worth the price of admission alone.

Outscoring the Eels last Sunday with a try and six goals, Ponga has averaged just under 200 metres per game since moving back to the number one jersey a month ago, while Tuivasa-Sheck has lived up to his status as the game’s number one player to lead the NRL for linebreaks, along with averaging more tackle breaks and metres gained than any other player in the league.

Set to dominate the rugby league world for the next decade respectively, look for the two teen prodigies turned first grade marvels to provide plenty of highlights in a contest of significant importance for both clubs.

NZ HOMECOMING

It may be an away game for Newcastle, but for a number of players the journey to the land of the long white cloud will mark a special homecoming.

With Herman Ese’ese, Danny Levi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall all representing the Kiwis at international level, Hymel Hunt being born in Auckland, James Gavet starting his career in the lower grades with the Warriors and Kalyn Ponga paying tribute to his Māori heritage earlier this season, the New Zealand connection looks set to play an important role on Sunday.

Among the side’s best performers in the win over Parramatta last week, expect the Kiwi contingent to lift for the occasion as the Knights look to rectify a poor record of four wins from 15 clashes against the Warriors throughout the 2010s.

KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK

The Knights completed at 84% last week - their best completion rate for the season.

WARRIORS STAT ATTACK

The Warriors have won their past eight matches the week following ANZAC Day.

CANTERBURY CUP

Knights v Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, 11.45am (AEST) Sunday.

JERSEY FLEGG

Knights v Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, 8.00am (AEST) Sunday.