NRL Round 16: Knights v Warriors Preview & Betting Tips
No Ponga? No worries for Newcastle, who after dominating Brisbane can crack the top four with a big win at home to the Warriors.
Newcastle Knights v New Zealand Warriors – McDonald Jones Stadium – 7:35 pm
Newcastle sprung back into form in comfortably defeating Brisbane 26-12 at home. After they were handed a rude awakening away to Melbourne pre-Origin 2, the Knights responded in style with a dominant first half to dispatch any doubts on whether their 30 points Storm loss would linger. Impressively the win came without Kalyn Ponga, the star fullback suffering a calf injury which rules him out on Origin 3 yet the Knights didn’t miss a beat in attack.
Kurt Mann shifted from five-eighth to fullback and had a fine game at the back, contributing two try assists and showing how valuable the utility can be, while Mason Lino stepped into the halves and outgunned Mitchell Pearce with an outstanding game.
The Knights were hard done by when prop James Gavet copped one of the all-time bizarre sin bins early in the second half yet even as Brisbane threatened to fight back, Newcastle’s defence was too good on the night. Daniel Saifiti backed up his Origin debut in style and was joined by the returning David Klemmer, who made a lightning recovery from a wrist fracture to rack up 191 running metres and 39 tackles without a miss.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon also had one of his best matches of the season and showed why’s a potential future New South Wales rep with a strong all-round performance highlighted with a try. Ponga’s brief injury may prove a blessing in disguise for coach Nathan Brown. Mann and Lino thrived in their new positions and the confidence the side gained in delivering without Ponga can’t be underestimated – they’ve shown they can perform without him, but can they now do so without Pearce as well?
If you’re a Warriors punter, at what stage do you go from being mad to “not mad, just disappointed”? Their 19-18 golden point loss to Penrith was a dagger to their finals hopes. The competition remains tight and it only takes a small run of victories to recapture lost ground but it’s hard to show true faith backing a side who implode so regularly at home.
Considering the rub of the green New Zealand enjoyed, including a dubious try to David Fusitu’a and Penrith at one stage being down to 11 men through dual sin bins – plus the ensuing possession and territorial dominance – the fact the Warriors only had a four-point lead in the final two minutes itself was a head-scratcher. Their defensive effort to allow rookie Panthers centre Brent Naden to blitz through their line and defeat at least four Warriors chasers to score was a mind-blower.
Patrick Herbert showed nerves of steel at least to slot a 40-metre penalty goal following Penrith being offside from the resulting short kickoff to take the game into golden point, but James Maloney outclassed the Warriors in handling a field goal set up. The Warriors are very close to falling away from the pack chasing the final spots in the top eight – they’re losing momentum while rivals are gaining it. Perhaps the only positives for the Warriors this round are they’re completely unaffected by Origin callups – unlike their opponents - and they’ve won three straight away games. For a side whose confidence is fragile, they’ll take any advantage they can get – their season depends on it.
Key stats: These sides met in round eight, the Knights winning 36-18. Newcastle has won their last three first halves at home by an average of 15.3 points.
Best bet: Knights -2.5 - $1.90* (TAB)
Value bet: Knights 9+ halftime margin - $3.75* (Sportsbet)