Knights ready for NRL finals test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights ready for NRL finals test

By Ben Horne 07/08/2011 06:08:41 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle's 40-8 flogging of Canberra on Sunday presented the Knights with a golden opportunity to advance their position in the NRL top eight and prove they're genuine dark horses come finals time.

Although the playoffs are still a month away, Knights captain Kurt Gidley declared his side will put their credibility to the test over the next two weeks when they face the Warriors in Auckland and Brisbane back at Ausgrid Stadium.

In their past two matches, the Knights have piled a combined 90 points on the struggling Raiders and Gold Coast, but they must show they can play with the same control and execution against the big guns.

A win at Mt Smart this Saturday night would see them leapfrog the Warriors into sixth place - and put the NRL on notice that the Novocastrians aren't there to make up the numbers.

With minor premiership-bound Melbourne running rampant, and second-placed Manly a model of consistency - the Knights will be desperate to avoid the death trap of finishing seventh or eighth.

Locked on 26 competition points with the Warriors, Gidley said his side are preparing for the away game of the season.

"Finals footy mentality, I suppose. It's good to come up against quality teams and test yourself," said Gidley.

"I've had some mixed results over there (in NZ) ... you've got to have a real good attitude to go there."

Newcastle, who have won six of their past eight encounters, still have home matches against the Broncos and South Sydney to come, as well as a winnable clash with Canterbury in Sydney.

Against the battling Raiders, centre Adam MacDougall and Akuila Uate continued to fine-tune their dynamic combination on the right-edge - each bagging a double.

Playmakers Jarrod Mullen and Gidley were pin-point at times with their precision and timing in attack.

Coach Rick Stone believes the seventh-placed Knights are warming up at just the right time.

"As far as our all-round game is concerned, we were probably a bit more comfortable with our performance and I thought it showed some signs of maturity from our team," said Stone.

"It's not very often we're in the favourites tag and we haven't been in the last couple of years and I thought they handled that pretty well today. I thought we took control of the game."

The 36-year-old MacDougall and his NSW Origin wingman Uate terrorised the Raiders left-side defence all match and the blitz was enough for Raiders coach David Furner to describe the mismatch as "men against boys".

"I honestly thought our left-hand edge was men against boys and they ran through us there a couple of times and teams are going to target that," he said.

"I still challenge the players and I did at halftime. This is the NRL and you've got to be able to tackle ... you've got to put your body on the line."

James McManus, Matt Hilder and Chris Houston also scored tries in the romp, while Josh McCrone and Joel Thompson added the points for the visitors.

Canberra star Josh Dugan is on report for stomping on Hilder's head, while their hooker Glen Buttriss is likely to miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

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