Wests Tigers will head north to Tamworth this weekend looking to secure their sixth win of the 2018 season when they take on the Newcastle Knights.
Ivan Cleary's side continued their remarkable run of form to open the new campaign with a demolition job over the Sea Eagles at Lottoland last Sunday, with halves Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall particularly impressing in the comprehensive 38-12 win. That result saw Wests Tigers make it three wins in a row, and they'll head to Tamworth extremely confident in making it four consecutive victories — despite losing co-captains Josh Reynolds (shoulder) and Chris Lawrence (hamstring).
Wests Tigers do welcome back the inspirational Elijah Taylor for Saturday's clash, with the New Zealand international a huge boost for the forwards as they take on a strong Newcastle outfit.
The Knights were outclassed by a determined Storm outfit in their most recent outing, but gritty wins over the Sea Eagles, Raiders and Broncos already in 2018 show that Nathan Brown's side are a much different challenge to the one from recent seasons and will certainly provide a tough test this weekend.
With proven match-winners in Mitchell Pearce and Aidan Guerra combining with the dynamic Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle definitely have plenty of threats for the home side to keep an eye on — something which the best defence in the competition will no doubt rise to challenge for on Saturday night.
Wests Tigers have a good recent record over the Knights with wins in their past two encounters, while the side will look to chalk up their longest winning run since the midway point of the 2012 season.
Scully Park is officially sold out for the clash with more than 10,000 fans expected to pack the regional stadium in what is shaping as one of the most interesting clashes of the round — particularly given the pre-season expectations that both sides are proving wrong through the early stages of season 2018.
Date — Saturday, April 21, 2018
Time — 5:30pm AEST
Venue — Scully Park, Tamworth
GAME DAY INFORMATION
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via Fox League (Ch.502)
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, AM 2GB 873
Live Stream —Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
Head to Head — Wests Tigers ($1.57), Newcastle Knights ($2.40)
Line — Wests Tigers -4.5 ($1.92), Newcastle Knights +4.5 ($1.92)
Odds correct as of 3:00pm, Wednesday, April 18 — 18+ only, gamble responsibly.
Wests Tigers — 1. Corey Thompson 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Matt Eisenhuth 9. Jacob Liddle 10. Ben Matulino 11. Josh Aloiai 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Elijah Taylor (Interchange: 14. Pita Godinet 15. Alex Twal 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Sauaso Sue 18. Tim Grant 19. Chris McQueen 20. Tyson Gamble 21. Tui Lolohea)
Newcastle Knights — 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 3. Sione Mata'utia 4. Nathan Ross 5. Ken Sio 6. Jack Cogger 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Herman Ese'ese 9. Slade Griffin 10. Jacob Lillyman 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Mitchell Barnett (Interchange: 14. Danny Levi 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jamie Buhrer 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Daniel Saifiti 19. Josh King 20. Luke Yates 21. Cory Denniss)
Round 2 — Wests Tigers 10 def. Melbourne Storm 8
Round 3 — Brisbane Broncos 9 def. Wests Tigers 7 (Golden Point)
Round 4 — Wests Tigers 30 def. Parramatta Eels 20
Round 5 — Wests Tigers 11 def. Melbourne Storm 10
Round 6 — Wests Tigers 38 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12
Round 2 — Newcastle Knights 30 def. Canberra Raiders 28
Round 3 — Sydney Roosters 38 def. Newcastle Knights 8
Round 4 — St. George-Illawarra Dragons 30 def. Newcastle Knights 12
Round 5 — Newcastle Knights 15 def. Brisbane Broncos 10
Round 6 — Melbourne Storm 40 def. Newcastle Knights 14
Press Conference: Benji Marshall
KEY MATCHUP — Corey Thompson vs. Kalyn Ponga
Few people could have predicted that by Round 7, people would be comparing the impact that Corey Thompson and Kalyn Ponga have had on their respective teams, but such has been the season so far! Since earning a spot on the wing in Round 1, Thompson has made every post his own at Wests Tigers and has seemingly beat out Tui Lolohea (for now, at least) to the fullback position. His commitment in defence and ability to keep being in the right place at the right time has suited Ivan Cleary side's to a tee, while also contributing plenty in attack with three tries, five linebreaks and 26 tackle breaks. Thompson will need to be at his best to contain his opposite number this week, however, with Ponga simply electric through the opening six weeks. The fleet-footed fullback has been firing on all cylinders with a hand in eight of the Knights' nine tries scored on the left edge this season with a whopping 48 tackle breaks already this year. What has perhaps been most pleasing for Knights fans is his ability to combine with all players on the edge — sending over the left winger, centre and back rower for tries this year. Wests Tigers' right edge defence will certainly need to be at their best if they are to shut down the Origin bolter this Saturday afternoon.
Referees — Chris Butler and Matt Noyen
Touch Judges — Rickey McFarlane and Jarrod Cole
Review Officials — Ben Galea and Jarred Maxwell