The Canterbury Bulldogs venture north to McDonald Jones Stadium to take on a determined Newcastle Knights side in Round 16 of the 2018 NRL season.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
With Newcastle only having recorded six wins from 15 games in 2018, this clash is a must-win for the 12th-placed Knights if they wish to remain in touch with the top eight. Whilst they fell short in their Round 14 and 15 clashes with two of the NRL’s heavyweights, the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm, the Knights will be looking to grasp a victory against a Bulldogs team who haven’t been able to take a trick in 2018.
It has been dire straits for the Bulldogs in 2018, who after 15 rounds, are sitting just two points ahead of the last placed Paramatta Eels. The competitive nature shown by the Bulldogs in the early rounds of 2018 has diminished as the season has unfolded, being particularly evident in their 22-point loss to the Gold Coast Titans in Round 14. It has been a disappointing year for Bulldogs fans, who have not seen their side in the winner’s circle since May 11 when they trumped the Paramatta Eels 20-12.
The return of superstar Kalyn Ponga following his sensational origin debut for the Maroons will certainly instil a large amount of confidence into a Knights side seeking their seventh win of the season. A suspended Lachlan Fitzgibbon has been replaced by Sam Stone in the back row, whilst Jacob Lillyman returns to the interchange bench after missing Round 15 with an abdominal strain.
The recent mid-season departures of Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods to the Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks respectively, have forced a host of changes to the Bulldogs line up. Will Hopoate returns to fullback to accommodate the gap left by Mbye, whilst Kerrod Holland returns to the centres. 21-year-old Lachlan Lewis, nephew of the great Wally Lewis, is set to debut at five-eighth, with Jeremy Marshall King as a result shifted into the halfback position. A broken hand and a season ending knee injury to Raymond Faitala-Mariner has gifted Rhyse Martin with an opportunity in the back row, whilst David Klemmer returns from his successful origin campaign to start at prop in place of the departed Aaron Woods. Interchange player Ofahiki Ogden is also set to make his debut and enter the NRL arena for the first time.
Having both lost their last match by considerable margins, the Knights and the Bulldogs will be determined to improve and snatch the two competition points on offer. A win for the Newcastle Knights at home would ensure they remain in contention to round out Top 8 at the conclusion of the regular season. A successful performance from the Canterbury Bulldogs, however, would effectively bury the Knights’ finals hopes and help to restore some pride and refresh the belief in their squad.
Following their inconsistent performance against the Melbourne Storm in Round 15, the Knights will be looking to improve on both their attack and defensive pressure on Saturday night. Whilst they have had patches of sheer brilliance in both areas during the 2018 season, Coach Nathan Brown is still of the belief that the margin between their good and poor performances is too extreme. Given their previous unsuccessful record against the Bulldogs, if the Knights are any chance of having a shot at a top-eight finish, their forwards must take charge and dominate down the middle to give their speedy backline the opportunity to work their magic.
Saturday night’s clash will provide a number of Bulldog’s young guns with the opportunity to showcase their talent in the hope of delivering the club’s fifth win of the season. The team’s lack of attacking prowess and inability to score points in 2018 has proven costly in many games this season. The confidence that debutants Lachlan Lewis and Ofahiki Ogden will bring to the team might just be the edge they need, bringing with them the right talent and temperament to ignite the game. For coach Dean Pay’s men to win, it is essential that they restrict the Knights unpredictability and quick plays around the ruck.
The Canterbury Bulldogs have convincingly won their last three games against the Newcastle Knights.
Newcastle Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun-Kenny Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Jack Cogger, 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Josh King, 11 Sam Stone, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra (c). Interchange: 14 Danny Levi, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Luke Yates, 17 Jacob Lillyman. Reserves: 18 Jamie Buhrer, 19 Nathan Ross, 20 Brock Lamb, 21 Pasami Saulo, 22 Nick Meaney.
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Kerrod Holland, 4 Marcelo Montoya, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aidan Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliot. Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Greg Eastwood. Reserves: 19 Asipeli Fine, 20 Matt Frawley, 21 John Olive, 22 Renouf Toomaga, 23 Clay Priest, 24 Francis Tualau.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday, June 30 2018
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
With one team playing to keep in touch with the NRL finals and the other playing to avoid the wooden spoon, this Saturday night clash is set to be an enthralling contest.
Knights by 10