Newcastle head to the nation’s capital this week to face the Raiders with both teams coming off disappointing losses. Their ladder positions suggest Canberra should win this game easily but the Knights has caused many headaches for the Green Machine recently. Both meetings last year went to extra time whilst Newcastle took the chocolates in the earlier meeting this season at Newcastle.
Last Time Out
Canberra went into last weeks clash against Penrith knowing they needed a win to keep their slim finals hopes alive and it felt like September had come early with an intensity fit for a finals game between two sides teetering the finals tight rope. In a game that ebbed and flowed with each side taking the lead at different stages Canberra will be filthy with themselves that with their season on the line they conceded a try from ‘dummy half’ to finally lose the match.
Canberra biggest mistake this year has been that they haven’t been able to learn from their ‘mistakes’, and like it has been all season their ‘Achilles Heel’ was a 68% completion rate and their inability to stay in the contest at crucial times. Canberra have now lost eight matches by 6 points or less with all those games being in the balance up to the final whistle, three of which went to extra time which has ultimately cost them a finals berth.
Newcastle were riding the wave of three wins on the trot and also enjoying some off field success after The NRL and Wests Group came to terms on Newcastle’s ownership deal and some recent big name signings. A match up against the competition leaders Melbourne Storm was seen as a difficult task but an opportunity for the young Knights to test themselves against the bench mark of the NRL.
After another bright start Newcastle led 6-0 after Brock Lamb sent Lachlan Fitzgibbon over for a try, the third week in a row Lamb has assisted Fitzgibbon for try. But although Newcastle were brave Melbourne took control of the contest after that and as Newcastle started to make unforced errors Cam Smith and young half Brodie Croft started pulling the strings as the Storm completely ran over the top of Newcastle running out to a 44-12 victory.
Still Something To Play For
If Canberra’s season was on life support last week it’s about to receive its last rights now, although it’s highly un-likely Canberra can make the finals they’re still a mathematical chance thanks to St George-Illawarra, North Queensland and Manly all losing on the weekend.
Canberra will need those sides to lose the remainder of their games and they need to win the rest of theirs to claim a finals spot, although their destiny is out of their hands Ricky Stuart will be telling his side to concentrate on what they can control and that’s winning their Friday match against Newcastle. If they can beat the Knights they’ll have a nervous weekend ahead watching how the rest of round 25 plays out.
For Newcastle they know to avoid their third straight wooden spoon they need to win their final two matches and hope Wests Tigers don’t win another game, although they have two tough games to finish the year Newcastle will back themselves to continue the form that seen them win three straight matches.
It’s also a chance for a few remaining off contract Knights players to impress Nathan Brown as they look to secure contracts for next season. Pete Mata’utia and Lachlan Fitzgibbon are still in negotiations with Newcastle and have been offered one year deals, though both are pushing for multi-year deals. Also Newcastle’s halves Trent Hodkinson and Jack Cogger will look to impress Brown, although both are under contract for next season the signing of Connor Watson has put both their futures in limbo.
With recent clashes between these sides being close and both sides featuring players who have previously played for each other expect this match to be close and spiteful at times.
You can be sure Newcastle will come to play as they have done every week this season so if some of The Raiders players are already thinking about a September trip to Bali Newcastle will take advantage.
In saying that this weeks game is Canberra’s last for the season at home and knowing that their season is still somewhat alive I expect Canberra to win by 1-12.
Canberra have named the same 17 from last weeks match against Penrith with no injury or suspension worries.
Newcastle have been forced into making multiple changes from last weeks loss to Melbourne with Brock Lamb and Luke Yates picking up injuries which will see them miss the remainder of the season. Captain Sione Mata’utia will miss this week after picking up his third concussion of the season which is becoming a major concern for the young leader.
In some good news for Newcastle Nathan Ross will return to play fullback after a miraculous recovery from a back injury.
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Blake Austin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Junior Paulo 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Shannon Boyd 11. Josh Papalii 12. Joseph Tapine 13. Elliot Whitehead. Interchange: 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Clay Priest 16. Dave Taylor 17. Luke Bateman 18. Jeff Lima 19. Erin Clark 20. Royce Hunt 21. Michael Oldfield
Knights: 1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Jack Cogger 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh King 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14. Joe Wardle 15. Mickey Paea 16. Sam Stone 17. Jacob Saifiti 18. Brendan Elliot 19. Pat Mata’utia 20. Jaelen Feeney 21. Jack Stockwell