The Newcastle Knights have struggled thus far under Wayne Bennett, but they have a chance to play themselves into form tonight when they face the struggling Penrith Panthers. Join us for live scores and commentary from 7.00pm AEST.
Newcastle has failed to live up to pre-season expectations so far this year and will need to beat the Panthers tonight to keep the critics at bay.
Heralded as a potential top four outfit at the start of the season, the Knights have already lost four matches this year and haven’t produced an eighty minute performance worthy of their status as premiership contenders.
In the lead-up to their match against Penrith, the Knights created headlines by signing former Test and Origin player Willie Mason, who will start from the bench for Newcastle.
Despite his experience, it remains to be seen if Mason can spark Newcastle to life, particularly upfront where the Knights have struggled to assert their dominance so far this season.
Penrith on the other hand have forgotten how to find the tryline. They have remained scoreless in their past two matches, suffering consecutive 30-nil defeats to the Sea Eagles and Tigers respectively.
Although they welcome back Michael Jennings from injury, the Panthers have struggled immensely to score points this season and look destined for another long year unless they can produce an upset of sorts tonight.
As mentioned earlier, the Panthers are too one dimensional in attack and need to change things up when they have possession.
Although Luke Walsh remains the linchpin to everything Penrith do with the football, captain Luke Lewis is the key to sparking the Panthers to life.
Lewis is one of the most creative and damaging ball runners in the NRL and needs to get his hands on possession often if Penrith are a chance of causing the upset tonight.
Against the Tigers, Walsh and Lewis combined scarcely, but when they did, they caused the Tigers considerable heartache up the middle of the park.
If Lewis and Walsh can combine more often up the middle, there is a solid chance that Penrith will finally post points against a suspect Knights pack.
Newcastle meanwhile has a lot more variety in attack and should hurt the Panthers if their forwards are able to get on the front foot.
Although Jarred Mullen and Darius Boyd have experienced inconsistent starts to the season, a solid game from both these players should see the Knights post a convincing victory against the Panthers.
If Mullen and Boyd do fail to spark yet again however, the Knights can often lose their way in attack and pressure themselves into error.
Overall, the Knights simply have to beat Penrith tonight if they are to truly consider themselves a top eight side. Whilst it could be tight early on, Newcastle should have too much firepower in the end.
Knights by 10.