General Make Or Break For Warriors, Knights


NRL: Make or break for Warriors, Knights

By Steve Deane 5:30 AM Saturday Aug 14, 2010

James Maloney and the Warriors have their eyes on the prize. Photo / Getty ImagesWhen the Warriors and the Knights met in mid-June it proved a turning point in both teams' seasons.

The Warriors were clinging to eighth spot but looking to push up the ladder, and the Knights had won their last two to hang on in the playoff race.

That scenario could well repeat itself tomorrow.

A victory would almost certainly propel the Warriors back into the finals for the third time in four seasons, while a defeat would all but finish the Knights.

If the result is reversed, the Warriors may well look back on the game as the moment they blew it, while the Knights might just reflect on a victory that helped them become the Parramatta of 2010.

The Warriors won a see-sawing round-14 encounter 32-24, courtesy of a James Maloney try two minutes from the end. The victory proved to be the first of five on the trot - a streak that propelled the club into finals contention.

The home loss was bitter for the Knights, but they too reacted with three straight victories. Both sides, in fact, have posted an impressive 5-2 record in the seven matches since they last met.

That hasn't quite been enough to fully resurrect a Knights season that began in disarray when key forwards Chris Houston and Danny Wicks were engulfed in a drug-dealing scandal, but it has kept them in contention.

"It was probably one of the turning points of our season," Knights coach Rick Stone said of the last meeting between the clubs. "We had a long hard look at ourselves. That particular game was one of the catalysts of our attitude, focus and absolute effort turnaround."

The extent of that turnaround was evident in the hammerings the Knights handed the Bulldogs and Manly in recent weeks, but they have still been prone to an occasional blowout.

The 50-point flogging they received in Canberra, followed by a golden point loss to the Cowboys in Townsville, seemed to have killed them off once and for all. But then came yet another rally.

Keeping their run going against the Warriors won't be easy, particularly given the likely withdrawal of five-eighth Jarrod Mullen.

The playmaker's halves partnership with captain Kurt Gidley has been crucial to the Knights since Gidley's switch from fullback, but a rib injury is almost certain to rub out Mullen tomorrow.

He will likely be replaced by Scott Dureau, the player who was memorably fended off by Lewis Brown to concede a second-half try in the last meeting between the clubs.

Strike winger Akuila Uate will provide the greatest threat to a Warriors defence that was back in lock-down mode against the Sharks last Saturday. With Uate having switched back to his favoured right side, the job of marking the competition's leading try scorer and line breaker falls to Manu Vatuvei, setting up a mouth-watering clash.

Plenty of training time this week had been devoted to working on ways to limit Uate's influence, coach Ivan Cleary said. "It's easier said than done, really.

"Usually, when the opposition have got a key player, the best thing you can do is play well yourself and limit his opportunities.

"We'll obviously go in with a bit of a plan to try to limit what he does, but the sort of guy he is and the way he plays, it's hard to stop him."

Cleary has named Bill Tupou - who scored a hat-trick against the Sharks - on the right wing ahead of Kevin Locke, although Lance Hohaia is carrying a thigh injury and Locke could yet come into contention.

While a loss could drop the Warriors to ninth with a testing schedule of Manly (away), Brisbane (home) and Parramatta (away) to come, a win would push them to the brink of the top four and set them up nicely for the challenges ahead.

"The goal is just to win [tomorrow]," Cleary said. "It's been the same all year, but if you put some wins together you can climb the table With four games to go, you don't have to look too far ahead but I think everybody knows the carrot is there."

Mt Smart Stadium, 2pm tomorrow

Lance Hohaia
Bill Tupou
Brent Tate
Joel Moon
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Brett Seymour
Ben Matulino
Ian Henderson
Russell Packer
S Mannering (c)
Lewis Brown
Micheal Luck
Interchange: Aaron Heremaia, Jacob Lillyman, Sam Rapira, Ukuma Ta'ai.

S McDonnell
Akuila Uate
Junior Sa'u
A MacDougall
Cooper Vuna
Jarrod Mullen
Kurt Gidley (c)
Ben Cross
Isaac De Gois
Antonio Kaufusi
Zeb Taia
Cameron Ciraldo
Matt Hilder
Interchange: Wes Naiqama, Dan Tolar, Richie Fa'aoso, Mark Taufua, Joel Edwards (one to be omitted).