Starting 13: Ponga, Sio, S. Mata'utia, Ross, Kenny-Dowall, Watson, Lamb, Ese’ese, Griffin, King, Fitzgibbon, Barnett, Guerra – Interchanges: Levi, Heighington, Yates, D. Saifiti, – Reserves: Buhrer, Denniss
Unavailable: Nick Meaney, Tautau Moga, Mitchell Pearce
Newcastle were comfortably beaten by South Sydney last week. The Knights were second best throughout and couldn’t keep pace with the Rabbitohs as their porous defence didn’t give them a chance as they went down 18-36.
Nathan Brown has made several changes to his side following last week’s heavy loss. Jacob Lillyman is dropped with Josh King replacing him at prop. Jack Cogger is also dropped for Brock Lamb in the halves. Danny Levi and Luke Yates come onto the bench with Jamie Buhrer another to lose their place in the 17.
Newcastle allowed Souths to make 50.7m per set and despite making 50m on average themselves, the Rabbitohs were too good with ball-in-hand and were unable to be stopped from creating chances to score.
Unavailable: Tyrone May, Sam McKendry, Nathan Cleary, Waqa Blake, Josh Mansour, Dylan Edwards, Moses Leota, Jack Hethrington
Penrith’s slow starts have harmed them at times this season and this was another example of that as they were defeated by North Queensland last week. The Cowboys were 0-20 up just before half-time and despite a second half fightback, the Panthers never got themselves in front as they went down 20-26.
Penrith’s injury issues were summed up last week when Trent Merrin suffered a compound dislocation of a finger in the warm-up last week. He has somehow been named to play this week but Moses Leota is out for two months with a pec injury whilst Jack Hetherington is banned. Jarome Luai and Kaide Ellis come onto the bench for the Panthers.
The Panthers shared the same amount of time on the ball with the Cowboys last week but fell short by six points. With so many injuries, the Panthers have lost several creative players with the Cowboys edging the game due to being more clinical, something which Penrith may struggle to match with their opponents until they get bodies back.
Both the Knights and Panthers have plenty of players missing out this week but for different reasons. Whilst Newcastle aren’t at full strength with the loss of playmaker Mitchell Pearce bound to be difficult to cope with, head coach Nathan Brown has dropped several of his under-performers. Penrith on the other hand are short of bodies due to injuries crippling their back division with plenty of creative talent sitting on the sidelines. This is a tough game to call with neither side looking convincing last week but the Panthers’ injury list may take its toll once more.