It's certainly getting to the business end of the season for Wests Tigers as they look to keep their finals hopes alive this Friday night against the Newcastle Knights.
Stunning upset wins over the Dragons and Rabbitohs had paved the way for Ivan Cleary's side to make a late assault on the top eight, but a last start defeat to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs certainly proved somewhat of a momentum killer in that regard. Described as "flat" for the entire game, Wests Tigers players will no doubt have been extremely disappointed by their poor performance, and they'll be desperate for the opportunity to make amends this week as they make the trip up to McDonald Jones Stadium.
While it could have been a far more successful weekend for Wests Tigers in Round 20 had they managed to make it three wins in a row (and if Cronulla and Manly both didn't find a way to lose their respective matches), there's still hope there for Cleary's side as they search their first finals appearance since 2011.
The New Zealand Warriors' poor second half against the Gold Coast Titans ensured they remained in eighth position on the ladder, and with a tough game coming up this weekend against the Dragons, there's certainly a chance that Wests Tigers could finish Round 21 just two points outside the top eight.
However, that will all be null and void if the visitors can't get the job done in Newcastle this weekend — a team who themselves will be keen to bounce back from last week's surprise loss to the Cowboys.
Leading by 12 points late in the contest, Nathan Brown's side showed an uncertainty in defence that could be exploited by Wests Tigers this weekend, but their attack still remains as dangerous as ever.
Much of that could hinge on the inclusion of Kalyn Ponga, who was in doubt after injuring his ankle last week, and the inclusion of the superstar fullback certainly adds a lot to the home side's chances of bouncing back from last week's defeat — particularly given Connor Watson's late withdrawal this week.
Back in Round 7, Wests Tigers saw how capable the Novacastrians could be in attack as they fought their way back for a thrilling last-minute win in Tamworth, and they'll no doubt be on guard once more this weekend as the Knights look to get the job done in their penultimate home game of the season.
Wests Tigers will head in to the game with everything to play for and a team that's shown to be capable of beating the best teams in the competition all season. If that's enough to get the two points... we'll soon see.
Date — Friday, August 3
Time — 6:00pm AEST
Venue — McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via FOX League (Ch.502)
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, FM 104.9 Triple M Sydney
Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
H2H — Newcastle Knights ($2.05), Wests Tigers ($1.78)
Line — Newcastle Knights +1.5 ($1.92), Wests Tigers -1.5 ($1.92)
Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn PongaFullback for Wests Tigers is number 1 Moses Mbye
Winger for Knights is number 2 Ken SioWinger for Wests Tigers is number 2 David Nofoaluma
Centre for Knights is number 3 Sione Mata'utiaCentre for Wests Tigers is number 3 Esan Marsters
Centre for Knights is number 4 Cory DennissCentre for Wests Tigers is number 4 Kevin Naiqama
Winger for Knights is number 5 Shaun Kenny-DowallWinger for Wests Tigers is number 5 Corey Thompson
Five-Eighth for Knights is number 20 Jack CoggerFive-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 10 Daniel SaifitiProp for Wests Tigers is number 8 Russell Packer
Hooker for Knights is number 9 Danny LeviHooker for Wests Tigers is number 9 Robbie Farah
Prop for Knights is number 16 Josh KingProp for Wests Tigers is number 10 Ben Matulino
2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 11 Michael Chee-Kam
2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett2nd Row for Wests Tigers is number 13 Elijah Taylor
Lock for Knights is number 13 Aidan GuerraLock for Wests Tigers is number 17 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange for Knights is number 8 Herman Ese'eseInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 12 Luke Garner
Interchange for Knights is number 14 Jamie BuhrerInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 14 Alex Twal
Interchange for Knights is number 15 Chris HeighingtonInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 15 Sauaso Sue
Interchange for Knights is number 17 JJ CollinsInterchange for Wests Tigers is number 18 Jacob Liddle
- Referee: Grant Atkins
- Referee: Matt Noyen
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
- Touch Judge: Kasey Badger
- Video Referee: Luke Patten
- Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara
Robbie Rochow drops out for Wests Tigers, with Jacob Liddle coming on to the bench. Luke Garner also drops back to the bench with Elijah Taylor moving to the back row and Matt Eisenhuth to lock. For the Knights, Connor Watson has been ruled out with injury and replaced in the halves by Jack Cogger while Josh King earns a promotion to the run-on side with Herman Ese'ese dropping back to the bench.
Overall — Played 26, Wests Tigers 12, Newcastle 13, Drawn 1
At McDonald Jones Stadium — Played 14, Wests Tigers 6, Newcastle 8
Last Time They Met — Newcastle Knights 22 def. Wests Tigers 20 (Rd.7, 2018)
Match Referees — Grant Atkins and Matt Noyen
Touch Judges — David Munro and Kasey Badger
Review Officials — Henry Perenara and Luke Patten