Warriors prop Ben Matulino is bracing for a fired-up Newcastle when two desperate NRL sides battle it out in Auckland on Monday.
Both clubs are winless heading into the match, although the Knights did grab a 24-24 draw with Canberra last weekend.
“They’re going to come out firing,” Matulino said.
“They’re in much the same boat as us, although they have one more point that us, so it will be pretty tough.”
The Warriors dropped to 0-3 after a 21-14 defeat to Melbourne.
With Matulino helping to set the platform with 142 metres run during his 56 minutes on the park, they were in the contest until the last three minutes, when they were sunk by a Cooper Cronk field goal and Marika Koroibete’s converted try.
For Matulino, that effort and the one against Brisbane in the previous round were positives, but they didn’t compensate for the lack of return.
“They were both top-four teams and it was good that we can mix it with them,” the 23-Test Kiwi said.
“In saying that, we still lost, so there’s nothing really to be happy about.”
Against the Storm, Matulino ended up playing longer than expected because of injury, with hooker Nathaniel Roache lasting just seven minutes off the interchange before spraining an ankle.
Roache’s misfortune meant the Warriors have finished undermanned in all three games so far.
They lost Ben Henry to a season-ending knee injury against the Wests Tigers, then had Blake Ayshford (head knock) and Manu Vatuvei (ribs) go off against the Broncos.
With frontline hooker Issac Luke (leg) and Roache still out, the Warriors will have just one specialist dummy-half, Jazz Tevaga, against the Knights.
Tevaga, 20, made his debut against Melbourne, getting 24 hours’ notice after Luke went down in training.
The Warriors’ slow start to the season means the spotlight remains on halves Shaun Johnson and veteran ex-Shark Jeff Robson, who are continuing to find their feet as a pairing.
They will be up against the combination of Jarrod Mullen and Trent Hodkinson, who impressed Warriors coach Andrew McFadden with their performance against the Raiders.
“It all comes down to the physical contest,” McFadden said.
“If we don’t win it, then their halves will have a lot of opportunity.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Newcastle edge the Warriors 17-16, with one draw, in head-to-head meetings.
* However, the Warriors have won nine of their last 10 matches against the Knights at Mt Smart Stadium.
* Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has run for 200 or more metres in each of the first three rounds to clock up a competition-leading 651 metres.