With both teams coming off three consecutive losses, it's desperate times for the Knights and Wests Tigers as they fight to play finals football.
On track for a top-four berth a few weeks ago, Newcastle are now wobbling on the edge of the eight after a humiliating 48-10 thrashing from the Roosters last week in which they conceded seven second half-tries.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire demanded his players "harden up" following a 20-12 loss to Canberra that leaves them in 12th spot, two points adrift of the eighth-placed Knights.
With both clubs aiming to end long play-off droughts, snaring the two competition points at the specially re-branded Mark Hughes Foundation Stadium is imperative.
Match: Knights v Wests Tigers
Round 19 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
- LIVE PASS
Knights: Nathan Brown has stuck with the same 17 and resisted the temptation to make any late changes. Connor Watson has remained on the bench after some thought he might start at hooker in place of Danny Levi. Josh King and Aidan Guerra dropped out of the extended squad on Thursday. Jacob Saifiti and Mason Lino were omitted an hour before kick-off. Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga has scored 34 points in his past two games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Wests Tigers: A change on Thursday with Jacob Liddle replaced on the bench by Matt Eisenhuth as Michael Maguire opts for four forwards on the bench. Josh Reynolds was the other player omitted 24 hours before kick-off. Tommy Talau and Chris McQueen were removed an hour beforehand. Wests Tigers have won three of their past four games against the Knights.
Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn PongaFullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Corey Thompson
Winger for Knights is number 2 Hymel HuntWinger for Wests Tigers is number 2 Paul Momirovski
Centre for Knights is number 3 Tautau MogaCentre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Moses Mbye
Centre for Knights is number 4 Jesse RamienCentre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Esan Marsters
Winger for Knights is number 5 Shaun Kenny-DowallWinger for Wests Tigers is number 5 David Nofoaluma
Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt MannFive-Eighth for Wests Tigers is number 6 Benji Marshall
Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell PearceHalfback for Wests Tigers is number 7 Luke Brooks
Prop for Knights is number 8 David KlemmerProp for Wests Tigers is number 8 Josh Aloiai
Hooker for Knights is number 9 Danny LeviHooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Robbie Farah
Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel SaifitiProp for Wests Tigers is number 10 Oliver Clark
2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Mitchell Barnett2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Luke Garner
2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Sione Mata'utia2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 12 Michael Chee-Kam
Lock for Knights is number 13 Tim GlasbyLock for Wests Tigers is number 13 Ryan Matterson
Interchange for Knights is number 14 Connor WatsonInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Thomas Mikaele
Interchange for Knights is number 15 James GavetInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 16 Alex Twal
Interchange for Knights is number 16 Herman Ese'eseInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 17 Chris Lawrence
Interchange for Knights is number 17 Jamie BuhrerInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 18 Matthew Eisenhuth
Halfbacks Mitchell Pearce and Luke Brooks will have a huge say in the outcome, but it's up to the forwards to lay platforms for the generals to operate. Inspirational Knights prop David Klemmer will be pumped to spearhead his side at home. Much-improved Tiger Alex Twal must mirror his opposite number's intensity.
For the Knights to win
Dominate the middle. Boasting three Origin representatives in their starting pack, stamping their authority in the middle third is Newcastle's key to victory. If they overpower the unheralded Tigers big men, Pearce and dynamic fullback Kalyn Ponga will relish the extra time and space to create.
For the Tigers to win
Keep it simple. The Tigers made it incredibly tough on themselves last weekend by completing their sets at just 67 per cent, producing 14 errors. Maguire's troops need to start sustaining pressure or an overdue return to the finals is likely to be delayed at least another season.
Brett Kimmorley says
A massive night for the Mark Hughes Foundation. I’m looking forward to seeing Kalyn Ponga, he’s had one game back and the calf looked fine. The cobwebs are out for him. Maybe there will be a response from the Tigers after their coach was brutal in his assessment of how weak they were. Expect a response from the Tigers but Newcastle probably have a few more points in them. Knights by 6
The two No.7s aren't afraid to take a whack before delivering to their supports. Brooks (140) and Pearce (121) are ranked first and second in the competition for line engagements.
And another thing ...
Whoever triumphs in this fixture will gain the edge in the all-time head-to-head battle between the clubs. As it stands, the Wests Tigers and Knights have 13 wins apiece with two draws in 28 matches.