Coming off an inspiring effort against the Broncos, the Dogs head north to take on a young and exciting Knights side. Both teams have had their ups and downs so far this year, but looking on paper and form, the matchup is relatively even.
LAST TIME OUT
The Knights went up against the defending premiers away from home last Saturday, where coming off a 40-0 drubbing from Penrith, were heavy underdogs. That was certainly not the case where Newcastle battled hard. Two early tries from both sides saw the scores sit at 6-6 after 14 minutes. The Sharks took off with a mountain of possession, and a bullet pass from fullback Valentine Holmes to Sosaia Feki put the Sharks up 14-6 at halftime. The Knights though stuck with it, and took advantage of Sharks’ mistakes. Two tries within the last 15 minutes squared the game up 18-18. Newcastle’s defence was brilliant for most of the match, and held out the Sharks close to their own line for most of the game. 57 percent of possession went the way of Cronulla, but sloppy errors is what put them on the edge at the end of the game. The Knights were efficient with possession, and completed more sets than the Sharks sitting at 75 percent.
The Bulldogs were up against it last week, with rumours of Des Hasler’s sacking and a matchup against arguably the best defensive side in the competition with the Broncos. The Dogs were outplayed early on, where Brisbane went ahead 7-0 at the half in horrible conditions. Their attack, like we all expected, had no flavour and simply fizzled out. A rare mistake from Jordan Kahu was the turning point, where Canterbury came to life and ran the ball with a lot of pace. Their forwards began to roll, and Josh Reynolds scored their first try to make the scores 7-6. Then a great run from Josh Jackson set up Brad Abbey for a try close to the posts, and the scores were 10-7 with just over 20 minutes left. The Dogs were not short of spirit, and the Broncos seemed burned out and could not compete. Most of the ball in the second half was controlled by Canterbury; overall having 55 percent of possession. Errors surprisingly for both sides sat below 10 considering the torrential rain at Homebush last Thursday.
Neither team boasts a top player(s) who match up well against each other, yet the number 7’s both are primed for big games for similar reasons. Hodkinson was an Origin starter while playing for the Bulldogs, and made a huge call when he moved to the Knights last year. His form has dropped so much since, but that is very much out of his control. Hodkinson must lead from the front for the Knight to move forward all together. His numbers have dropped from last year, which seems odd considering Newcastle’s obvious improvement in 2017 so far. But with eh teams overall looking better, he needs to do the same sooner rather than later.
Moses Mbye, yes, is the man for the Dogs. It comes down to execution and both halves players have been in hot water over this. Reynolds though never lacks in passion for winning, and manages to execute something in some form, like last Thursday. Mbye needs to find a consistent kicking game and set up the Dogs’ backline to score points. He has the tools around him, he just needs to utilise them.
The Knights are flying under the radar. Their spirit is something nearly contagious, and their efforts against the Sharks last week was worthy of the premiers high remarks. The Dogs may have a bit too much grunt in the middle, which may be enough in a tight contest. If the halves pairing of Reynolds and Mbye can prove doubters wrong, Canterbury should pull away. Bulldogs by 6
Knights: 1. Brendan Elliott 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Nathan Ross 6. Brock Lamb 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Jack Stockwell 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh Starling 11. Sione Mata’utia 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Sam Stone 15. Anthony Tupou 16. Joe Wardle 17. Daniel Saifiti 18. Jaelen Feeney 19. Luke Yates 20. Jacob Gagan 21. Jacob Saifiti
Bulldogs: 1. Brad Abbey 2. Brett Morris 3. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Greg Eastwood 13. David Klemmer 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Danny Fualalo 16. Adam Elliot 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 19. Craig Garvey 20. Matt Frawley 21. Francis Tualau 23. Reimis Smith