Warriors v Knights: Suspension hits Warriors; Knights hand prop debut
Talk of a late-season choke for the Warriors was all but buried with last week's 18-12 road win over the Dragons.
Back-to-back losses to the Storm and Titans had everyone thinking the Warriors were on the slide, but you don't go and win at a ground you haven't won at for 22 years unless you're serious about your goals and ambitions.
Now comes the tricky bit – backing it up with a similarly committed effort against a team they are supposed to beat. The other factor hanging over their heads is their poor home record in 2018.
If the Warriors are going to push hard for a top-four spot they simply must win this Friday night clash.
The Knights finished strongly against the Tigers last week but gave up too much ground in the first half, but they've proved they can't be taken lightly and will be keen to be a fly in the ointment for top-eight sides over the final four games.
Match: Warriors vs Knights
Round 22 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: He has had an up-and-down season but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck turned on his best form in last week's upset of the Dragons. Everyone raved about the strength and smarts he displayed in his try-saving tackle on Tim Lafai, but the magic footwork and swerve were all back and he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. RTS will be relishing his battle with 20-year-old star Kalyn Ponga.
For the Warriors to win: Stephen Kearney's confidence in his side surely doubles whenever Issac Luke is in the line-up. Luke returned last week after a brief injury layoff and the Warriors' will to win seems to always be stronger when he plays. The Warriors need to feed off his bursts from dummy-half to keep the Knights on the back foot all night, in addition to an effective kicking game from Shaun Johnson and Blake Green.
For the Knights to win: Nathan Brown will be crossing his fingers Mitchell Pearce doesn't succumb to the leg injury that forced him from the field in the second half of last week's loss to the Tigers. Ponga and the rest of the Knights stepped up in Pearce's absence and went close to a comeback win, but their best chance of winning is to have Pearce calling the shots.
Warriors Stat Attack: Issac Luke will play his 250th NRL game on Friday against the Knights. Shaun Johnson leads the NRL in field goals (4), while Blake Green is equal leader in 40/20 kicks (2).
Knights Stat Attack: Pearce may yet be unable to play but if he does it will be his 250th NRL game. Kalyn Ponga leads the competition in line breaks (128), while Shaun Kenny-Dowall has the equal most intercepts (3).
And another thing: Even though they appear headed for the finals and possibly even a top four berth, it's still hard to tell which Warriors side is going to show up from week to week. Their poor 4-5 home record is easily the worst among all top eight teams, but on the flipside their 8-3 road record is the NRL's best. Newcastle have won just four of 11 home games but boast a respectable 4-5 road record.
Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Roger Tuivasa-SheckFullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Warriors is number 2 David Fusitu'aWinger for Knights is number 2 Ken Sio
Centre for Warriors is number 3 Gerard BealeCentre for Knights is number 3 Sione Mata'utia
Centre for Warriors is number 4 Solomone KataCentre for Knights is number 4 Cory Denniss
Winger for Warriors is number 5 Ken MaumaloWinger for Knights is number 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Blake GreenFive-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Jack Cogger
Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Shaun JohnsonHalfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
Prop for Warriors is number 8 James GavetProp for Knights is number 8 Herman Ese'ese
Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Issac LukeHooker for Knights is number 9 Danny Levi
Prop for Warriors is number 10 Agnatius PaasiProp for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Isaiah Papali'i2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Adam Blair2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett
Lock for Warriors is number 13 Simon ManneringLock for Knights is number 13 Aidan Guerra
Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Jazz TevagaInterchange for Knights is number 14 Jamie Buhrer
Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Leivaha PuluInterchange for Knights is number 15 Chris Heighington
Interchange for Warriors is number 16 Bunty AfoaInterchange for Knights is number 16 Pasami Saulo
Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Peta HikuInterchange for Knights is number 17 JJ Felise
Warriors: The Warriors have enjoyed a smooth preparation after last week's road win over the Dragons and will take the field as named on Tuesday. Peta Hiku replaces suspended Sam Lisone, Adam Blair swaps to back-row with Simon Mannering to lock. Anthony Gelling and Tevita Satae were cut from the reserves on Thursday, while Joseph Vuna and Karl Lawton were the last players omitted an hour prior to kick-off.
Knights: Newcastle have no late concerns and will line up 1-17. Young prop Pasami Saulo debuts on the bench with Herman Ese'ese starting and Josh King out. Injured pair Mitchell Pearce (quad) and Kalyn Ponga (ankle) have both been cleared to play. Josh King and Brock Lamb were dropped 24 hours out from game time, while Nick Meaney and Luke Yates were omitted an hour before kick-off.
New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights, Friday 6pm at Mt Smart Stadium
Head-to-head: Played 38; Warriors 19 wins, Knights 18 wins, 1 draw
Previous result: Knights won 26-10 at McDonald Jones Stadium in round 22, 2017
Points per game: Warriors 18.5; Knights 18.2
Points conceded per game: Warriors 19.2; Knights 25.7
Televised: Live on Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: Issac Luke brings up game No.250 and that will motivate his team-mates as he has been great for them since coming from Souths. There Warriors are level on 26 points with the Broncos and Sharks so they have way too much to play for to be losing at home.
Tip: Warriors by 12