Cutters Clash With The Knights
By Trent Thomas
The Illawarra Cutters face the Newcastle Knights in the NSW Cup Preliminary Final at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Both sides are one win away from the NSW Cup Grand Final and intend to field possibly their strongest sides of the year respectively.
The Cutters have regained their momentum after a period of poor form seemed like it would escort them out of the Finals with back to back loses.
However, they managed to produce one of their best performances of the season in their win over the New Zealand Warriors at the same venue last round.
The Knights enter the encounter with fresh legs after having last round off thanks to a win in the NSW Cup Finals Week 1 fixture against the Wentworthville Magpies.
The two outfits have met twice this year with each winning one contest a piece and with each team benefitting from home field advantage.
Cutters Head Coach Scott Logan has named an unchanged side from last week which includes centre Charly Runciman, who was a late inclusion, and man-of-the-match lock Shannen Wakeman.
Logan has continued with Sam Duggan at five-eight after moving him back to the position from lock last week.
The Cutters come up against a very experienced Knights outfit boasting several experienced first-grades including Michael Dobson, Timana Tahu, Matt Hilder, and Clint Newton.
With the Knights expected to field a side with 12 players who have first-grade experience, the Cutters will have to reproduce their completion rate from last week that saw them complete 95% of their sets in the second half.
“We are not thinking too far ahead at the moment and I’m very proud of the boys for what they have done so far,” said Logan.
“We went away last week and did a lot of soul searching and what they came up with was tremendous.
“The ability to have the full week and work hard on what has been letting us down helped us turn things around.
“We had the full time guys early in the week and every one was on board and that really helped.
“Our outstanding completion around 80% in the first half and 95% in the second half was outstanding and established the platform for the win.
“Looking ahead we all know Newcastle are a quality side and they have built really nicely from the middle of the year.
“We will have a close look at them through video and try to find some weakness before the match.”
A key to the Cutters side last week was the outstanding performance of the front-row pack against a mammoth Warriors pack.
They will need to win the battle of the forwards again against an experienced Knights pack which has played a lot of finals games.
A win will see the Cutters in the NSW Cup Grand Final against the winner of the Penrith Panthers and Wentworthville Magpies.