Warriors wary of buoyant Knights
Few teams in the NRL understand better than the Warriors what a hard-fought victory over the Storm can do for a side’s confidence.
Historically the New Zealanders have used victories over Melbourne as a springboard for winning streaks or form transformations, which is exactly why playing the Knights this week has them on edge.
Following Newcastle's miraculous last-minute victory over the Storm last Saturday night – when they scored 12 points in three minutes to win 32-30 – the Warriors are expecting to confront a Knights side who believe they can do anything.
“I think they will be full of confidence and will have a bit of a spring in their step, but we can’t worry about who they have played,” said Warriors prop Sam Rapira ahead of Sunday’s game at Hunter Stadium.
“There is a bit more belief in what you have set as a structure and process [after beating the Storm] and it definitely lifts the spirit within each other.
“The biggest thing for me is that they [the Knights] played the full 80 minutes.
“They were 10 points down with three minutes left in the game and won, so it will be a big learning curve for us too.
“I think they have shown everyone in the competition that if you play for the full 80 you can win from anywhere in the game.”
The fact that the Knights languish way down in 14th position was also providing little comfort for the Warriors, with Rapira believing they still have plenty to play for.
“They are playing for pride… which is massive,” the 27-year-old said. “But as long as we have the right process then we will be fine.
“They are going to be out to play, but again it’s the team that turns up on the day that wins.”
Coach Andrew McFadden agrees.
“We played a team last weekend [the Sharks] who were playing for pride as well,” he said.
“The Knights have plenty to play for, they are professionals and it is their home ground so we expect a very hard game.”
While the rookie mentor was hoping to see improvement in his side’s attack, which went missing in action last week as they failed to score a single second-half point.
“Our attitude towards attack on the weekend was probably a result of the Canberra game [the 54-18 win over the Raiders in Round 21].
“We just thought it might happen easy. We didn’t have the same detail around our game and plan so that is something we have addressed.
“It is an important game, Newcastle still have a lot of quality and a lot of experience, and obviously they have a very experienced coach as well who knows how to get them up; we need to win.
“They are a good side and I am not surprised that they got over the Storm.”
The Knights’ backline is significantly weakened by the absence of Origin players Darius Boyd and James McManus, but their forward pack is one which the Warriors have plenty of respect for.
“Their forward pack is definitely skilful, I think it is going to take a lot to contain them,” Rapira said.
“But with the defensive structure we have I am pretty sure we can do that, if we turn up with the right attitude.”
When Rapira came into the NRL eight years ago Willie Mason – one of the men he will come face to face with on Sunday – was already an established star.
But the former Kiwi international believes Mason is playing as well as ever in 2014, despite being on the wrong side of 33.
Last week Mason ran for 113 metres and along with front-row partner Kade Snowden has been one of the rare bright sparks for Newcastle in a torrid season.
“Willie has been around a while now and doesn’t look like he is slowing up at all. He has been one of the legends of the game and is still going well,” Rapira said.