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Can the Newcastle Knights breach the Wests Tigers’ ruthless defence?

Can the Knights breach the Tigers’ ruthless defence? TweetFacebook Knights in trainingPhotos: Jonathan CarrollTHE Newcastle Knights need to find a way through the NRL’s best-drilled defence –while reinforcingtheir own –in Saturday’s clash with resurgent Wests Tigers at Scully Park, Tamworth.
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After six rounds, the Tigers rate as the competition’s biggest improvers. Their only loss was after a controversial late penalty against Brisbane, which NRL officials later admitted was incorrectly awarded.

The Tigers’ success has been founded on miserly defence, which has conceded only 67 points, at 11.1 per game. In comparison, the inconsistent Knights have leaked 164 points at 27.3 per game, after combining three narrow wins with three lopsided defeats.

Knights coach Nathan Brown said he had noted that the Tigers have been forcingteams into error through swarming,up-and-in defence, especially off their goal-line.

“They’ve certainly been taking a lot of time off a lot of sides,” Brown said.

“Most sides they’ve beaten this year, their completion rates have been very low …because theTigers’ defence has been very aggressive and keen. They’ve sort of been forcing the errors.”

Brown said up-and-in defence, pioneered by Warren Ryan at Newtown and Canterbury, was something of a rarity in the modern game.

“It’s not as common these days,” Brownsaid.

“But one thing that is common is that it is getting harder to score inside that 10 or 15-metre zone, whether it’s up-and-in defence, or whether it’s sides getting off their line.”

Brown said defensive success was “a long-term thing”, best evidence by Melbourne Storm.

“To keep doing it, for any of us, is the difference between being a good, consistent side and an OK side,” Brown said.

BACK IN BUSINESS: Veteran Wests Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall has been in vintage form this season, prompting talk of a recall to the New Zealand Test team. He will be a key man in Saturday’s clash with Newcastle. Picture: AAP

“For us, it’s something we’ve certainly got to get a lot better at.For the Tigers, they’re doing it great and they probably want to continue doing it great.”

After last week’s 40-14 loss to Melbourne, Brown has dropped five-eighth Brock Lamb and bench hooker Danny Levi to NSW Cup.

In addition, prop Jacob Lillyman is unavailable because his wife is due to give birth totheir second child.

Jack Cogger replaces Lamb, while Daniel Saifiti is expected to start instead of Lillyman.

Meanwhile, AAP reports that Tigers coach Cleary insists reborn playmaker Benji Marshall deserves to be in the running for selection in New Zealand’s controversial Test against England in Denver.

Asked what he thought of Marshall’s selection chances for the Kiwis in June, Cleary said: “You’d think they’d have to be fairly good.

“I’m not picking the team, but he’s certainly experienced and passionate about the Kiwis. And he’s playing well. If he keeps that up, surely he’d have to be in the running there somewhere.”

Cleary also admitted the club has yet to enter discussions with the 2005 premiership winner about a contract extension.

He said Marshall had regained confidence following a challenging period in his career that began with his messy split with the Tigers in 2013 and involved stints in rugby, St George Illawarra and Brisbane.

Cleary said it was difficult to predict how long Marshall could play on for.

“He’s also at that time in his career, that age, where it’s hard to forecast,” he said.

“As long as you’re feeling good about training, want to turn up each day and make the sacrifices you need to be able to make to play well on the weekends, there’s no reason why he couldn’t keep going.

“But at the end of the day it’s going to be up toBenji.”

With big-money signing Josh Reynolds this week ruled out for up to a month with a shoulder injury, Tigers officials are set to get an extended look at Marshall in the halves.

“It’s turned out that way. We weren’t sure how that was going to pan out, but it’s always going to be nice to have a guy likeBenji. The way it’s turned out, it’s going well at the moment,” Cleary said.

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