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This is shaping as a crucial battle in the race for the finals, with two sides clinging on to spots in the top eight going head-to-head with contrasting recent form.

After three straight wins the Knights succumbed to their worst loss of 2020 last week, humbled at the hands of a Warriors side that had every reason to throw in the towel this season.

The Sharks, meanwhile, had lost two of their previous three before thumping the Cowboys last round, led by rookie half Braydon Trindall in the absence of star playmakers Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan.

Both sides are facing dilemmas when it comes to the halves, with Newcastle still working out how best to replace the injured Blake Green while Cronulla have a new in-form player to squeeze into their first-choice playmaking spine.

The Rundown

Team news

Knights: The Knights will line up 1-17. Two changes to the bench from last week with Phoenix Crossland replacing Chris Randall and Brodie Jones in for the suspended Pasami Saulo.

Tautau Moga and Randall were trimmed from the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off. Tex Hoy and Jirah Momoisea were cut an hour before game time.

The Knights have won their past three games at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Sharks: A late switch an hour before kick-off with Scott Sorensen moving into the starting side and Toby Rudolf going to the bench.

Halfback Chad Townsend will return from a calf injury, Josh Dugan is over his knee and turf toe issues and Jesse Ramien's eye problem is no longer a worry, according to coach John Morris on Thursday.

Bryson Goodwin replaces Sione Katoa on the wing with Andrew Fifita also dropping out of the extended squad on Thursday. Jack Williams and Teig Wilton were cut an hour before game time.

Connor Tracey will definitely fill the bench utility role. The Sharks have lost all five games against teams currently in the top eight.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
    Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Starford To'a
    Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
  • Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Dugan
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Gehamat Shibasaki
    Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Hymel Hunt
    Winger for Sharks is number 19 Bryson Goodwin
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Mason Lino
    Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Braydon Trindall
  • Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
    Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad Townsend

Forwards

  • Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
    Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Kurt Mann
    Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Jacob Saifiti
    Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Aidan Guerra
    2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
  • Lock for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett
    Lock for Sharks is number 15 Scott Sorensen

Interchange

  • Interchange for Knights is number 14 Phoenix Crossland
    Interchange for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
  • Interchange for Knights is number 15 Herman Ese'ese
    Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Connor Tracey
  • Interchange for Knights is number 16 Josh King
    Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Siosifa Talakai
  • Interchange for Knights is number 17 Brodie Jones
    Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce Hunt

Match Officials

  • Referee: Ben Cummins
  • Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
  • Touch Judge: Matt Noyen
  • Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara

Last updated:

Key match-up

David Klemmer v Toby Rudolf. When Newcastle start games slowly this season they have often found themselves out of the contest quickly, so it's up to the likes of star big man Klemmer to get them on the front foot early. So why have we matched the NSW and Australian Test star up against a rookie bench prop?

It's because Rudolf has been a low-key revelation this year, piling on 150 metres from the interchange last week to once again outshine well-credentialed veterans Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita. In a game between two desperate teams the battle for domination between the two packs will be key, and this pair will play a big role in that.

Stat Attack

The Knights will need to rediscover their attacking groove quickly if they'e to trouble the Sharks, who have averaged 27 points per game during the past seven weeks. Cronulla's tally of 71 tries for the season is second only to the Roosters (76) while the Knights are ranked seventh with 58 tries. Powerhouse winger Sione Katoa is the main man for the Sharks with 14 tries in 16 games, equal top of the tryscoring table for 2020 with Tiger David Nofoaluma, Panther Stephen Crichton and Rabbitoh Alex Johnston. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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