Knights face NRL mission impossible - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights face NRL mission impossible

David Beniuk 03/09/2011 01:52:24 PM Comments (0)

Newcastle may have claimed the last spot in the NRL finals, but their play-offs campaign looks like mission impossible with an abysmal record against top-eight sides.

With a tough draw in 2011, the Knights have played 12 games against their top-eight rivals for just two wins.

One of those came against a St George Illawarra side without its huge contingent of State of Origin representatives, a narrow 14-10 victory in round 17.

The other was way back in round two, when they beat North Queensland 34-22.

Rick Stone's side are likely to meet Melbourne at AAMI Park in a Sunday qualifying final next weekend after securing eighth place with a 40-24 win over South Sydney on Friday night.

The Knights played the Storm there in round eight and were dispatched 42-12.

Rabbitohs coach John Lang said Newcastle's impressive attacking display against his side at Ausgrid Stadium meant they were a chance against the Storm, while Knights captain Kurt Gidley was adamant where there was life there was hope.

"We certainly take some confidence out of (the win) and while you're in the semis you're a chance I suppose," he said.

Newcastle coach Rick Stone said his side had overcome plenty of "obstacles" to stay alive in 2011.

As well as injuries requiring them to use 33 players, the Knights endured a protracted process as mining magnate Nathan Tinkler bought the club.

Stone was told early in the season he would be replaced by seven-time premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett and the club parted ways with half Beau Henry and forward Corey Paterson.

"We've had a few other obstacles, I suppose, to get over," Stone said.

"I think we've managed it pretty well and all the boys have continued to keep fighting for us and that's the most important thing."

Stone is holding out some hope New Zealand international Junior Sa'u will be back from a knee injury for next weekend's sudden death final.

Hooker Matt Hilder and centre Siuatonga Likiliki are in doubt, but a nine-day turnaround will help their cause.

Likiliki has a mild hamstring strain while Hilder, despite wearing headgear, reopened a head wound that required around 20 more staples to be inserted.

"He got dumped straight on his head first tackle he told me," Stone said.

"(It's) disappointing for Matty, he's been the real heart and soul of this team over the last couple of years and to come off in that situation and possibly jeopardise next week for him, that's a tough one."

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