Young Wests Tigers enforcer Sauaso Sue will look to continue his strong start to the season as he comes up against the experienced Newcastle Knights co-captain Jeremy Smith on Sunday at Hunter Stadium.
The battle in the middle is sure to be fierce between these two competitors, with plenty at stake for their respective sides in the clash at Hunter Stadium.
Sue will look to lead Wests Tigers out of a three-game losing streak after a strong start to the 2016 season with wins against New Zealand and Manly-Warringah.
On the other hand, Smith will be hoping to guide a young Knights squad to their first win of the year, with the side sitting on just one competition point from a Round 3 draw againt Canberra.
The battle of forwards has been boosted considerably with the return of Curtis Sironen on the bench for Wests Tigers and Tariq Sims in the back row for Newcastle, however the Knights will be without second rower Robbie Rochow who picked up an injury mid-week.
While match-ups between halves Trent Hodkinson–Luke Brooks and Jarrod Mullen-Mitchell Moses may be the more obvious “key match-ups” in this hit-out, it’s the grinding battle in the middle between Sue and Smith that will have a major impact on this match.
Smith holds the upper hand against Sue; winning three of his four clashes against the Samoan International.
Prior to his time with Newcastle, Smith won five out of his eight clashes with Wests Tigers during stints with Melbourne (04-08), St George Illawarra (09-10) and Cronulla (11-12).
Sue making the hard yards….
One of the standout areas of Sue’s opening five games of 2016 have been his strong carries through the middle, which on the majority of occasions will result in him getting his team on the front foot with a quick play-the-ball.
Sue has made 531 metres from just 58 runs (9.2 metres per run), ranking him third in the squad for metres gained behind Aaron Woods and James Tedesco.
Smith to step in defence…
As mentioned above, the Knights will be without backrow workhorse Rochow, who currently leads their tackle count over the first five games with 186 (37 per game).
While it’s yet to be confirmed who will take Rochow’s place on the right edge, one thing you can expect is for Smith to step up and take on some extra workload in defence after averaging 23.7 tackles per game to open the year.
However, it remains to be seen how Knights coach Nathan Brown will use Smith, with the former New Zealand International playing inconsistent minutes over the opening five games – two 70+ minute efforts (Canberra and Melbourne), one 54 minute game (Rabbitohs) and two matches around the 40-minute mark (Titans and Warriors).
What he said…
“It was really disappointing (last week against the Sharks),” Sauaso Sue said this week. “We just gave away too many penalties and we had a 40% completion rate which you can’t expect to compete with and that showed in the final score.
"It was a really hard pre-season and we all put in a lot of hard work, I’m just concentrating on working hard for the guys next to me each week.
“I haven’t really changed much of my game this year, I’ve always played aggressive and I think with Marty (Taupau) gone this year that has become more of a focus on me now.
“It’s a great battle in the middle, I’ve got a few stitches from the past few weeks now but I love it and hopefully we can bounce back against the Knights.”