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Hostplus NRL Preview: Round 11

John Shamon


The Panthers travel to McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday hoping to kick-start their season as they take on a reinvigorated Newcastle Knights outfit boosted by their first win in over two months.

Anthony Griffin has been forced in to one change with the luckless James Fisher-Harris making way for Corey Harawira-Naera in the starting side as a result of a hamstring injury sustained last weekend. Viliame Kikau comes in to the side on the bench in his place.

Knights coach Nathan Brown is able to recall Junior Kangaroo Sam Stone in place of Lachlan Fitzgibbon after missing the clash against the Raiders, while Mitchell Barnett is named to return off the bench with Tyler Randall dropping to the reserves list.


The Panthers returned to form with an incredible turnaround against the Warriors last Saturday at Pepper Stadium. Trailing by 22 points at the break, the home side ran in five-tries-to-nil with a spectacular second-half display to seal a 36-28 victory.

Isaah Yeo was at his dynamic best, keeping his side in the contest with two tries either side of half-time, before releasing Waqa Blake to streak away and score the side’s fourth. Yeo added 32 tackles, four tackle breaks, two line breaks and two offloads to add to his try-scoring exploits in a dominant performance that laid the platform for the Panthers’ astonishing comeback.

Some follow. We lead.

The Panthers will be facing a Newcastle side buoyed by their own second-half showing to down Canberra 34-20 last Sunday. The Knights ran in three straight tries to pull away from the Raiders, before Brock Lamb sealed their first victory since Round 2 with a try at the death in front of a rambunctious home crowd.

New captain Sione Matau’utia led from the front for his side scoring two tries to go with his 41 tackles. Daniel Saifiti gave the Knights some go-forward, leading the way with 185 metres from 21 runs in his hour-long shift.

Recent clashes between these two sides have gone heavily in favour of the Panthers, winning five of the past six and racking up over 30 points in each victory. The Knights defence has struggled with the playing style of this weekend’s visitors, conceding 188 points and only returning serve with 62 points of their own.

In this fixture last season the Panthers produced a brutal 36-point second half to demolish the Knights 42-6 in their own backyard. Earlier this year, the Panthers repeated the dose with a 40-0 shutout in their first home game of 2017.

Harawira-Naera had a debut to remember on the day as he crossed over for his first NRL try and laid off another for Tyrone Peachey in a sparkling performance for the young Kiwi. 

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