Warriors v Knights Preview

Warriors v Knights
Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday, 2pm NZ Time (12pm Syd)

This is the moment. This is the chance the Knights have to peg back the gap to the top eight and keep faint hopes alive. This is also the chance the Warriors have to put distance between themselves and another challenger, and put another finger on a finals berth.

It is situation critical for the Knights, as the Warriors are the most likely of the teams currently in the top eight to fall from the zone before the regular season ends.

This same thought makes the game crunch time for the home side, who must fight to remain well ahead of South Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra and Parramatta.

Quite frankly, this game all the way over the ditch on Sunday afternoon is perhaps the one that will have the greatest bearing on the final finals make-up. If the Warriors win, they can move from their current eighth position to as high as third; but a loss could have them fall to ninth if the Rabbitohs beat the Storm.

Importantly, the Broncos and Manly – ahead of the Warriors but equal on points – face tough matches against Parramatta and the Dragons. Should they both fall, the Warriors get the edge on them with victory.
 
They have named the same side that disposed of the Sharks last week.

The Knights kept 2010 alive with a great win over the Bulldogs last week. The side looked buoyant and happy and if they continue with their current cavalier style, they could upset the home side.

Currently ranked 10th, a win is likely to keep them there, although they’d be better off in the chase at just a win behind the top eight (and better off in differential). A loss could drop them to 12th and basically out of the running, although three big wins to end the year could still provide a miracle.

They too have kept the same side from last weekend, although Joel Edwards has been added as an 18th man.

Watch out Warriors: The Knights are going to chance their arm from inside their own half. With no tomorrow on their minds, the Knights know they need to take a few risks and their video sessions this week highlighted the Warriors’ penchant for lapsing in defence as teams come off their line.

With 14 tries conceded from over halfway, the Warriors rank second last in the NRL and the Knights have studied all 14 of these tries to find specific weaknesses. Look for an early shift to big winger Akuila Uate as the Warriors compress in defence, with the Knights hoping to unleash their own ‘beast’ into open territory.

The Knights have scored 10 tries from over halfway already this season.

Watch out Knights: The Warriors have done their own video review and have pinpointed the Knights’ weakness up the middle of the ruck.

All season the Knights have had problems tightening up the middle and when teams roll through the middle part of the field, the forwards are constantly caught napping or fail to move quickly enough laterally. It has resulted in 22 tries conceded up the middle of the field, the second worst number in the NRL.

With the Warriors being reasonably prolific in scoring 17 tries up the guts, this match spells danger for the Knights if they don’t tighten up. It requires pure commitment to the tackles and the will to get up and tackle effort-on-effort without being lazy. The side needs to prove how much they really want to stay alive.

Where it will be won:
Completions. In Round 14 these two sides met in Newcastle, with the Warriors prevailing 32-24, only sealed at the death by a James Maloney try. Both sides played reasonable but not great football… both sides showed they have similar strike power, with some quality plays sprinkled throughout some poor patches.

But at the end of the day, the Warriors were able to get the job done for one simple reason: they held the ball more and had the one extra quality chance they needed to win the game.

The Knights had 14 errors that Sunday afternoon, the Warriors eight, which meant the Knights completed at 65 per cent, the Warriors 74 per cent. That’s all it took.

Over the course of the season the Warriors have made 229 errors, the Knights are now at 274 – a big reason they are outside the top eight while the Warriors are in it.

The side that respects the ball and wins the completions here is likely to grab the vital competition points.

The history: Played 25; Warriors 10, Knights 14, drawn 1. The Warriors prevailed 32-24 over the Knights in Newcastle earlier this season to make it six wins from the past eight matches. However, the Knights actually have the wood over the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium overall with seven wins, five losses and a draw.

It is also important to note the Warriors have won four of their past six day games at home and the winning margin average over the past five matches between the two sides is just six points.

Conclusion: This should be one of the games of the round, as two sides with plenty to play for come head-to-head a month out from the finals.

The Warriors should start favourites but if the Knights can get away to a fast start they might just get the confidence they need to hang on.

With their defence getting better and better, the Warriors are still the team to lean towards but if you are sniffing around for an upset, a desperate Newcastle aren’t out of the picture.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & David Munro; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 12pm AEST.