NRL: Newcastle Knights present golden opportunity for New Zealand Warriors

By Niall Anderson

David Fusitu'a of the Warriors scores a try during the round 13 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium last week. Photo / Getty Images
David Fusitu'a of the Warriors scores a try during the round 13 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium last week. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand Warriors are out to build upon their impressive win over the Brisbane Broncos, and they have a golden opportunity to do so.

Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden has named an unchanged lineup for their trip to face the Newcastle Knights on Saturday, following their 36-18 victory over the Broncos last weekend.

The Knights present an ideal chance for the Warriors to put together consecutive wins for just the second time this season, while also edging towards a top eight berth.

Despite all the drama on and off the field this season, the Warriors sit just two points outside the top eight with a 5-7 record, and their upcoming schedule could vault them right back into playoff contention.

Newcastle are on pace for one of the worst seasons in NRL history, having won just one of their 13 games, and losing on average by a mammoth 22.5 points per game.

With 10 debutants this campaign and 13 players aged under 23, the inexperienced Knights have lost seven games in a row, and have scored 20 points just once in 2016.

The Warriors have already thrashed the Knights once this season - 40-18 in March - and followed it with a win over the Sydney Roosters to record their only winning streak this season.

In a quirk of the NRL schedule, the 15th-placed Roosters again follow Newcastle on the Warriors' fixture list next week, representing an appealing shot for the Warriors to reel off a significant winning streak for the first time since July last year.

Additionally, the prior back-to-back against the Knights and Roosters was the last time McFadden was able to name an unchanged team, a luxury he has taken advantage of this week.

Of course, the sporting cliché of taking things one game at a time applies especially to the inconsistent Warriors, and McFadden is preaching caution going into the clash at Hunter Stadium.

"It's really good to have that continuity for a change being able to name the same side," he said. "But it's a really difficult road trip going to Newcastle and we're going to need everyone on deck.

"They're a really aggressive side with their speed. We've got to make sure we're ready to go because if we're not we're going to be in for tough night."

If the Warriors wish to prove themselves as a rejuvenated playoff contender, a win against the Knights is the place to begin.

Warriors team to play the Knights at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, on Saturday (5pm):

Tuimoala Lolohea, David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c), Simon Mannering. Interchange: Nathaniel Roache, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Charlie Gubb.

- NZ Herald

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