Warriors vs Knights
Mt Smart Stadium
Saturday 21st July, 7:30pm (NZ time)
This weekend promises to be a cracker as far as rugby league goes, starting with the Sea Eagles hosting the Bulldogs on Friday, and ending with the Tigers travelling to Townsville on Monday. I’m excited, it’s squeaky bum time and September is just around the corner. Having said that, Ray Warren needs to abandon the Olympics ASAP – I’m not sure I can handle much more Ray Hadley.
Who else enjoyed last Friday night? Despite the loss, that was our best performance of the season. I’ll put my hand up and say I didn’t expect us to go that well at Suncorp on Friday. An unlucky night with the boot from Maloney was all that separated us from a memorable win. Nonetheless, it’s time to move on to Bennett’s Knights.
Recent Form: The Warriors looked to have been building after successive wins over depleted Cowboys and Titans sides, yet just missed out on Friday night. What pleased me most was our defence, and that we fought for the full 80 minutes. That particular quality has been glaringly absent this season, so it was pleasing to see the boys finally play with the kind of desperation we all crave.
The Knights were amongst the pre-season favourites with Bennett at the helm, though it’s safe to say this season has so far been a big disappointment for the Novocastrians. They’re coming off a WLW record, the highlight being an impressive 32-6 victory of the Sea Eagles last weekend. Rumours are that the Seagles were struck down with the flu, and I’m skeptical the Knights will be able to back it up.
Players to watch: When our forwards go well, the team goes well. After last week’s display I expect our forwards to come out at home and monster this Newcastle pack. Matulino, Mannering and Friend were outstanding in our display against the Broncos – and I expect the same this weekend. I don’t think I’m alone in hoping Willie Mason decides to take on Ben Matulino, in fact I pray for it daily.
Will the real Shaun Johnson please stand up? Okay that’s harsh, Shaun Johnson has impressed me this season overall. Last year it was his scintillating play at this stage of the season that really propelled us toward that grand final. With Friend back, and guys like Hurrell, Mateo, Matulino hitting top form, a timely injection of some Shaun Johnson brilliance could really take us to another level.
As for the Knights, well no doubt the talk will be about Uate vs Vatuvei, though my attention will be on the Kondom up against Tahu. They play a very physical game and both teams will be keen to show them early ball. Tyrone Roberts has impressed me, he seems to be finding his feet in first grade and was instrumental in that victory over Manly. For mine their strength lies in the backline, so starving the likes of Roberts, Mullen and Boyd of ball on the front foot will go a long way to securing victory.
My prediction: Well I’m probably more confident about this game than any other this season. The Knights don’t like travelling to Auckland – having not won there since 2005. Even if unspectacular, the Warriors have shown they can usually account for lesser teams at Mt Smart, and I don’t think this Knights outfit has enough to get one up on us here. The loss to the Broncos had plenty of positives to take away, and we must continue to build. A loss would be simply shattering. If we’re any chance of a late run, we have to play as a top 8 team and dispatch them through the covers like a glorious Flemo cover drive. Warriors 30 – Knights 18.