Knights v Warriors: Schick Preview
Wed 02 Aug, 2017, 11:00am
By Corey Rosser, New Zealand Correspondent, NRL.com
Schick Hydro Preview: Knights v Warriors
McDonald Jones Stadium
Saturday, 3pm AEDT, 5pm NZT
Almost five months on from their first meeting in 2017, few would have predicted that the Newcastle Knights would arrive at this encounter against the New Zealand Warriors with the better recent form behind them.
With the Warriors zero from four in the past month, most recently going down to the Cronulla Sharks 26-12 last Friday night, Newcastle on the other hand come off an upset 21-14 victory over the eighth-placed St George Illawarra Dragons.
Unsurprisingly Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has opted to go with the same 17 who helped his side to their third victory of 2017.
The Warriors have just the one forced changed ahead of travelling to McDonald Jones Stadium, with rookie Isaiah Papali'i coming in for Bodene Thompson (pectoral) in the second row.
Why the Knights can win: At home again after scoring a gutsy victory over a current top-eight side last up, Newcastle have plenty of reason to feel confident this week, especially given they face a Warriors side who are going backwards in a hurry. With the Saifiti brothers chugging away, last week running for a combined 351 metres, and Nathan Ross and Brock Lamb firing in the spine, the Knights are hard to stop if they get a roll on. The Warriors are ripe for the taking, and Newcastle look hungry.
Why the Warriors can win: It is no secret that the Knights have some glaring deficiencies in their game this year. Even last week in victory some of them showed up, with Newcastle missing a colossal 64 tackles. Across the year they average over 10 errors per game, while the Warriors complete better than any team bar the North Queensland Cowboys this year, at an average rate of just under 80 per cent. If the Kiwi side play to their strengths they will have too much quality for the Knights to handle.
The History: Played 37; Knights 17; Warriors 19; Drawn 1. The Warriors have taken the points the last four times they have met the Knights, stretching across three seasons, but most recently it was a close one, with the Kiwi side requiring a late try to win 26-22 in Round 1. Newcastle have won nine of 16 meetings against the Warriors at this week's venue.
What are the odds: Newcastle's price is certain to firm as we get closer to the match, judging by the amount of money Sportsbet has seen placed on the home side. The cash is running 10 to 1 in favour of the Knights and there's good money for them to win 1-12 as well.
Match officials: Referee: Chris Sutton. Assistant referee: Chris James. Sideline officials: Russell Turner and Nick Morel. Review official: Bryan Norrie. Senior review official: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 3pm. Sky Sports - Live coverage from 5pm.
NRL.com predicts: In theory the Warriors still have it all to play for on Saturday night, while the Knights are doing it solely for pride, and on paper it's hard to tip Newcastle. But they have confidence right now and their opponents this week look a badly broken machine, lacking direction in attack and struggling in defence. Knights by two.