It was expected that the Newcastle Knights would endure a difficult season, but not too many people were expecting their season to start as poorly as it has. An away loss the Rabbitohs was expected but the nature of their defeat against the Titans was surprising. In front of their home fans for the first time this season, Newcastle will attempt to kickstart their season.
Their opponents come into the match buoyed after winning their first two matches of the season for the first time since 2005. The Raiders, travelling for the first time this season will be attempting to carry their good form outside of the nation’s capital.
LAST TIME OUT
The Knights were poor in their 48-6 loss to the Rabbitohs. Statistically, there wasn’t too much between the two sides. Similar possession, similar tackles made but a massive eight linebreaks for the Bunnies was a telling factor of the match. The new look backline Nathan Brown named last week were poor in defence. The coach will be looking for impact from his outside backs while doing his best to assure experienced halves Mullen and Hodkinson can lead the team around the field.
Canberra were far from their best against an inexperienced Roosters lineup. With both first choice halves out with injury, Sam Williams slotted the winning field goal to win a thriller 21-20. The win was made more remarkable due to the Raiders losing Fensom to injury in the first minute injury while five-eight Lachlan Croker came off due to an injury scare. The Roosters looked to have won the game when Leilua was sent to the sin bin with 15 minutes remaining but the Green Machine showed their new found character to win the game.
The team with the better fullback is likely to win the game.
Although named in the centres, Dane Gagai is a strong chance to replace Feeney at the back. The Rabbitohs scored tries due to poor communication between Feeney and his wingers. The threat he poses with the ball in hand will help give the Knights an edge. Regardless of who is given the task, either Gagai or Feeney will need to communicate clearly and organise the defence or the Raiders will be rampant.
Wighton has looked assured at fullback so far this season. Solid under the high ball, Wighton will need to be on his game due to the kicking games of Mullen and Hodkinson. The Raiders number one will also need to work on his combination with Williams as they weren’t linking up as smoothly as Ricky Stuart would like.
With a cool, wet evening should be the perfect environment for the Raiders. Their forwards thrived once a cool change came about last week and with the confidence they have gained from two narrow victories, they will be far too strong for the Knights.
Canberra by 16.
Knights: 1 Jaelen Feeney, 2 Nathan Ross, 3 Dane Gagai, 4 Pat Mata’utia, 5 Akuila Uate, 6 Jarrod Mullen, 7 Trent Hodkinson, 8 Sam Mataora, 9 Tyler Randell, 10 Korbin Sims, 11 Jacob Saifiti, 12 Robert Rochow, 13 Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Sione Mata’utia, 16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17 Daniel Saifiti, 18 Pauli Pauli
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Edrick Lee, 3 Jarrod Croker, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Lachlan Croker, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Shannon Boyd, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Frank Paul Nuuausala, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Elliot Whitehead, 13 Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste, 15 Iosia Soliola, 16 Paul Vaughan, 17 Jeff Lima