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Knights v Warriors: Pearce, Hunt back; Otukolo debuts

Two teams fast losing contact with the top eight will be desperate for a win as they look to turn around poor losses in round 14.

The Knights have lost four of their past five, doing it tough with key players Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce sidelined, while the Warriors simply had no answers to the power of the Storm at the Central Coast.

Adding injury to insult the Warriors lost playmaker Chanel Harris-Tavita to a potentially season-ending pectoral injury while Wayde Egan had to be taken to hospital after he suffered a serious head cut and was in a bad way after the game.

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Warriors coach Nathan Brown will be relieved to have young gun Reece Walsh back on deck from suspension and he'll be hoping some of the 18-year-old's enthusiasm can rub off on his teammates.

The rundown

Team news

Knights: A late reshuffle with Kurt Mann replacing the injured Kalyn Ponga at fullback, Brodie Jones starting at centre, Mitch Barnett moving to the second row and Sauaso Sue starting at lock.

Josh King joins the interchange with Tex Hoy the 18th man. Braydon Musgrove dropped off the extended bench an hour before kick-off.

Mitchell Pearce (pectoral) and Hymel Hunt (hamstring) will make their return from injury but Bradman Best will miss 6-8 weeks with a syndesmosis injury.

Veteran prop David Klemmer is listed on the interchange as he makes his way back from a two-match suspension but a late change could be on the cards.

Matt Croker was omitted from the squad along with Ponga when it was reduced to 19.

The Knights are aiming for two wins in a season against the Warriors for the first time since 2003.

Warriors: Teenage hooker Taniela Otukolo will make his debut off the bench, replacing Bunty Afoa in the side.

Young centre Rocco Berry was omitted from the team on Friday, replaced in the starting side by Adam Pompey.

Bench forward Jack Murchie was also culled from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off, with Edward Kosi dropping out of the side on game day.

Rising star Reece Walsh returns from suspension to reclaim the fullback spot with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck again making way with a move to the wing.

Sean O'Sullivan gets another chance at halfback following Chanel Harris-Tavita's season-ending pectoral injury.

Jazz Tevaga gets the nod at hooker in place of Wayde Egan (head knock) and Addin Fonua-Blake, who made his return after eight weeks out on the bench last week. 

The Warriors have conceded 169 points in their past five games.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Knights is number 3 Kurt Mann
    Fullback for Warriors is number 1 Reece Walsh
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Dominic Young
    Winger for Warriors is number 2 Marcelo Montoya
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Warriors is number 4 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Knights is number 12 Brodie Jones
    Centre for Warriors is number 21 Adam Pompey
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Hymel Hunt
    Winger for Warriors is number 5 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Jake Clifford
    Five-Eighth for Warriors is number 6 Kodi Nikorima
  • Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
    Halfback for Warriors is number 7 Sean O'Sullivan

Forwards

  • Prop for Knights is number 8 Jacob Saifiti
    Prop for Warriors is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Jayden Brailey
    Hooker for Warriors is number 9 Jazz Tevaga
  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
    Prop for Warriors is number 10 Ben Murdoch-Masila
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Warriors is number 11 Bayley Sironen
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett
    2nd Row for Warriors is number 12 Tohu Harris
  • Lock for Knights is number 16 Sauaso Sue
    Lock for Warriors is number 13 Josh Curran

Interchange

  • Interchange for Knights is number 14 Connor Watson
    Interchange for Warriors is number 14 Eliesa Katoa
  • Interchange for Knights is number 15 David Klemmer
    Interchange for Warriors is number 15 Leeson Ah Mau
  • Interchange for Knights is number 17 Jack Johns
    Interchange for Warriors is number 17 Kane Evans
  • Interchange for Knights is number 18 Josh King
    Interchange for Warriors is number 22 Taniela Otukolo

Reserves

  • Reserve for Knights is number 19 Tex Hoy
    Reserve for Warriors is number 18 Edward Kosi

Match Officials

  • Referee: Chris Butler
  • Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
  • Touch Judge: Mark Bohan
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

Daniel Saifiti v Addin Fonua-Blake: The Warriors enforcer made his return against the Storm and got 50 minutes of game time under his belt as he looked to make up for lost time.

Saifiti backed up a powerful Origin showing for NSW with 15 runs and 161 metres in the loss to Souths and he'll be keen to make a statement against AFB and the big Warriors pack. 

Stat attack

The Knights and Warriors have only one player each in the top 50 for line breaks in 2021. The only Warrior is Ken Maumalo with seven line breaks in 11 games and the big winger is now an ex-Warrior as he joins forces with Wests Tigers this week. The only Knight in the top 50 is Starford To'a with eight line breaks - a long way off the competition leader Alex Johnston who has 22.

 

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