Knights v Sharks Preview

Knights v Sharks
EnergyAustralia Stadium
Sunday 2pm

Desperation might be the word of the day during this match, as two sides desperate to keep faint finals hopes alive come together in the steel city.

Fresh from the bye the Knights have pushed up to 11th on the NRL ladder, now just four competition points from the top eight.

They will probably still need to win six of their last nine to have a chance at finals football and this encounter against the 14th-placed Sharks almost certainly needs to be one of those wins.

The Sharks fell to the Bulldogs last weekend, making their task seven from nine to have a chance at a premiership trophy.

You can just about put the line through them already – but if they are to perform miracles it needs to start here.

Newcastle have Kurt Gidley on Origin duty while the Sharks need Trent Barrett, Kade Snowden and Paul Gallen to get through Wednesday night unscathed to turn up on Sunday as named.

Fresh from the bye the Knights welcome back hooker Isaac De Gois, which sees Matt Hilder move to the bench.

Constantine Mika and Joel Edwards have been pushed off the reserves bench, with new signing Antonio Kaufusi coming into the squad.

Having played last weekend without their stars, the Sharks side should look a little different.

Barrett comes in for Scott Porter at five-eighth while Snowden takes his place at prop, pushing Josh Cordoba to the bench. Gallen returns at lock, moving Anthony Tupou to second row and Broderick Wright to the bench. Luke Harlen misses selection.

Another Sharks defeat would signal their longest losing streak in day matches since 1983 (eight).

Meanwhile, Adam MacDougall needs just one more try to become the leading tryscorer at EnergyAustralia Stadium (50).

Watch out Knights:
Sharks prop Luke Douglas is pumped for a huge game. After seeing his team-mate Kade Snowden get a call up for New South Wales despite being there or thereabouts for a few years now himself, Douglas wants to put out a timely reminder that he could have been called upon for state duty.

The no-nonsense big bopper averages 111 metres a game so far this season and has 27 tackle-breaks. He also provides more than 32 tackles each game and has 53 dominant tackles this season with 39 from marker (most in the club on both counts) – proving he’ll do the effort-on-effort if required.

Watch out Sharks: Knights second-rower Cory Paterson is ready to jump out of the mild form slump he has experienced in recent games. Paterson hasn’t been poor, but just down on his averages. But with the bye and some rest, word is he’s pumped to make a huge difference in the run home.

Currently he averages 74 metres a game but has set his sights on triple figures and he intends to lift his tally from 28 offloads. Paterson also has five line-breaks and six line-break assists this season, not to mention three try assists and three tries. Look for his second-phase play to be the feature.

Where it will be won: The boot will be the main weapon in this contest and the side that wins the battle within the war will no doubt get the points.
 
Newcastle has leaked 16 tries from kicks so far this season, the Sharks 13. Both sides have massive issues with containing kicks and as such both will look to hit the other with a vast array of kicking skills.

The Knights are ranked 12th in the NRL at simple kick defusal, the Sharks are ranked last.

The home side really struggles with grubber kicks, particularly behind the big wingers and around the slow moving forwards. The visiting Sharks are woeful defensively against bombs and cross-field bombs and also have issues with chip kicks.

The Knights will no doubt target Shark winger Isaac Gordon after it was revealed this week he successfully defuses just 27 per cent of kicks sent his way.

The history: Played 35; Knights 19, Sharks 15, drawn 1. The Sharks gave the Knights a touch-up earlier this season to the tune of 26-6, making it two from the past three but they have only won four of 15 matches against the Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium, with the last victory in Newcastle coming in 2006.  

Conclusion: Despite a poor record at home this season the Knights still have the edge here.

As long as Gidley plays, you should tip the Knights although the Sharks aren’t without a chance. If Barrett fires and Gallen leads the pack into decent field position, the Knights can be embarrassed at home again.

Match officials: Referees – Tony Archer & Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials – David Abood & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Russell Smith.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.