PREVIEW: Newcastle Knights vs Penrith Panthers

Newcastle Knights will honour recently retired 166-game winger James McManus at Hunter Stadium this Sunday when they host top eight hopeful Penrith Panthers.

LAST TIME OUT

After an improved second half against Manly, Newcastle were competitive for the first forty minutes against Canterbury Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium last Saturday.  A double to former Roosters flyer Brendan Elliott saw the Knights draw level at fourteen points all with thirty minutes to play.  In the end it was Moses Mbye who was the difference in scoring one try thanks to Sam Kasiano’s charge down of Jarrod Mullen’s kick and being involved in setting up another as the Bulldogs ran out 28-14 winners.  To add further misery to a record fourteen game losing streak was the loss of Nathan Ross to a hamstring injury.

Penrith returned to Pepper Stadium on Monday night to play the Sydney Roosters in a must-win game after victories to Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors earlier in the round saw them jump two points clear and into the top eight.  Penrith led at the break 18-6 but the Roosters weren’t without their chances as they took on the game up the middle. A string of early penalties in the second half gave Penrith a roll on.  Three tries in ten minutes including some brilliant vision from Nathan Cleary to kick out wide for Tyrone Peachey to score, saw the Panthers lead 32-6.  Late tries to Boyd Cordner and Daniel Tupou put some respectability into the score but it was Penrith’s biggest win of 2016 at 38-18.

KEY BATTLE

The two number sevens are at different stages in their career.  Trent Hodkinson has played at Origin level and Nathan Cleary is showing signs of being the next best thing in the game as he sets to play only his tenth NRL game.  How they direct play will go a long way to determining how close the game is.

If somehow Newcastle win the battle in the forwards an upset could be on the cards.  It will rely on someone to lead from the front and that player might be Korbin Sims.  But it’s a fair pack they face with Leilani Latu, James Fisher-Harris and Trent Merrin showing good form of late.

PREDICTION

It should be a win to the Panthers as long as they don’t start to think ahead to next Friday’s night blockbuster against Wests Tigers.

Panthers by 16

SQUADS

Knights: 1. Jake Mamo 2. Nathan Ross* 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Brendan Elliott 6. Jarrod Mullen 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Sam Mataora 9. Tyler Randell 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Korbin Sims 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Jacob Saifiti. Interchange: 14. Chris Adams 15. Josh King 16. Pauli Pauli 17. Mickey Paea 19. Pat Mata’utia
* Nathan Ross is out of the side and will be replaced by Sione Mata’utia

Panthers: 1. Matt Moylan 2. Josh Mansour 3. Waqa Blake 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Bryce Cartwright 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Leilani Latu 9. Peter Wallace 10. Moses Leota 11. Isaah Yeo 12. James Fisher-Harris 13. Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14. Sitaleki Akauola 15. Jeremy Latimore 16. Chris Grevsmuhl 17. Zak Hardaker
* Chris Grevsmuhl is out of the side and will be replaced by Reagan Campbell-Gillard

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