Knights v Titans: Lillyman and Fitzgibbon to start; Arrow bolsters Titans
Given how Newcastle performed before Mitchell Pearce got injured, it probably shouldn't have come as a surprise that the Knights won in his first game back, halting a three-game losing slide with a courageous come-from-behind victory over wooden spoon favourites Parramatta.
Okay it was only the Eels, but after falling behind 10-0 in 10 minutes a Pearce-driven Knights clawed their way back to claim their seventh win of the season and keep their ever-so-slim finals hopes alive.
Poor old Nathan Brown. The scenarios that must run through his head if Pearce and now Kalyn Ponga (hamstring injury) had been on board for every game. If the Knights don't win on Saturday they can definitely forget about the playoffs.
The Titans dropped to 6-11 with last week's home loss to an under-strength Roosters side and have welcomed back Origin duo Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace.
Key match-up: Jai Arrow will be looking forward to his first game back at club level now that the Origin series is wrapped up. Arrow played a key role in the Maroons' game three victory and will be looking to wreak havoc on the Knights forwards. Daniel Saifiti should take it as a personal challenge to keep Arrow as quiet as possible.
For the Knights to win: It's stating the bleeding obvious but Pearce will have to cast a long shadow for Newcastle to be successful. Brown got good contributions from other sources but with Ponga still a week away from returning, Pearce needs to be on his game from start to finish.
For the Titans to win: Wins over Canterbury and the Wests Tigers in rounds 15 and 16 had some pundits thinking the Titans could make a run at the top eight. But then came a harsh reality check in the form of a 34-0 loss to the Broncos in round 17, which was followed by last week's loss to the Roosters. Garth Brennan has to get his team clicking on all cylinders like they did against the Bulldogs and Eels and Ash Taylor needs to run the ball more.
Knights Stat Attack: It's no surprise that the Knights have relied heavily on the impact of Pearce this season – last week's win ended a six-game losing streak at home, while Newcastle have won five of eight games with Pearce in the side. Pearce has only lost twice in seven games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Titans Stat Attack: The Gold Coast have had the wood on Newcastle in recent times, winning four of their past five against the Knights with Konrad Hurrell scoring doubles in both games against Newcastle last season.
And another thing: It's no top-of-the-table blockbuster but this is a crucial game for the 11th and 12-placed teams on the ladder and they will no doubt view each other as very beatable. Defence has been a problem for both teams all year, with the Knights conceding 444 points and the Titans 427. No other team has given up 400 yet.
Fullback for Knights is number 1 Nick MeaneyFullback for Titans is number 1 Michael Gordon
Winger for Knights is number 2 Ken SioWinger for Titans is number 2 Anthony Don
Centre for Knights is number 3 Cory DennissCentre for Titans is number 3 Konrad Hurrell
Centre for Knights is number 4 Shaun Kenny-DowallCentre for Titans is number 4 Brenko Lee
Winger for Knights is number 5 Nathan RossWinger for Titans is number 5 Phillip Sami
Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Connor WatsonFive-Eighth for Titans is number 6 Alexander Brimson
Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell PearceHalfback for Titans is number 7 Ashley Taylor
Prop for Knights is number 17 Jacob LillymanProp for Titans is number 8 Jarrod Wallace
Hooker for Knights is number 9 Danny LeviHooker for Titans is number 9 Nathan Peats
Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel SaifitiProp for Titans is number 10 Ryan James
2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Aidan Guerra2nd Row for Titans is number 11 Kevin Proctor
2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett2nd Row for Titans is number 12 Keegan Hipgrave
Lock for Knights is number 16 Lachlan FitzgibbonLock for Titans is number 13 Jai Arrow
Interchange for Knights is number 8 Josh KingInterchange for Titans is number 14 Mitch Rein
Interchange for Knights is number 13 Herman Ese'eseInterchange for Titans is number 15 Moeaki Fotuaika
Interchange for Knights is number 14 Jamie BuhrerInterchange for Titans is number 16 Jack Stockwell
Interchange for Knights is number 15 Chris HeighingtonInterchange for Titans is number 18 Leilani Latu
Knights: Coach Nathan Brown has made a couple of late alterations, moving Josh King and Herman Ese'ese to the bench and promoting Jacob Lillyman and Lachlan Fitzgibbon. Reserves Brent Naden and JJ Felise were cut an hour before kick-off, while Jack Cogger and Sam Stone were omitted on Friday afternoon.
Titans: The Titans have made one change, with Leilani Latu elevated to the bench at the expense of Will Matthews. Jai Arrow and Keegan Hipgrave return, pushing Jarrod Wallace to prop and Moeaki Fotuaika to the bench. Brendan Elliot got the chop an hour out from kick-off, while Jai Whitbread and Morgan Boyle were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 19; Knights 10 wins, Titans 9 wins
Previous result: Titans won 33-26 at Cbus Super Stadium in round 11
Points per game: Knights 17.6; Titans 18.1
Points conceded per game: Knights 26.1; Titans 24.8
Televised: Live on Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: The Knights will have taken plenty of confidence out of last week's win and playing at home is a big advantage. The return of Mitchell Pearce was massive and he brought composure in the tight moments. The Titans have had an up and down season and played without luck last Sunday but I favour the Knights at home.
Tip: Knights by 6
Match: Knights vs Titans
Round 19 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
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