Canberra Raiders will be looking to bounce back on home soil this weekend as they take on a new look Newcastle Knights squad who are fresh following a golden point victory.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canberra Raiders will be asking themselves what went wrong after blowing an 18-point lead not once but twice as they went down to the Gold Coast Titans 30-28. A game of two halves led to the demise of the green machine and they will be looking to bounce back quickly with a win this weekend over a determined Newcastle side who will be full of confidence after a huge win.
Newcastle Knights kicked off their campaign beautifully after a thrilling golden point victory over the Manly Sea Eagles. It took over 80 minutes, but it was the boot of star recruit Mitchell Pearce that decided the match. Kaylyn Ponga impressed on debut for his new club, as did former Bronco Herman Ese’ese to give the Novocastrian faithful new hope. They will be looking to continue their great start by knocking off a big Raiders side on Sunday.
With Josh Hodgson set to miss a large chunk of the season, Ricky Stuart has decided to stick with Siliva Havili in the the number 9 jumper. blake Austin and Sam Williams set to start in the halves while Aidan Sezer will start from the bench. Joe Tapine will miss at least a week with a dislocated thumb which gifts Luke Bateman the lock role and enables new recruit Charlie Gubb to make his debut for the club from the bench.
Newcastle have named an unchanged line up following their round 1 victory. Connor Watson again gets the nod over Brock Lamb in the number 6 jersey with Lamb set to start from the bench once again. Captain Jamie Buhrer has been named to play but will be given until kick off to prove his fitness after receiving a heavy knock in the win over his former side Manly.
The Raiders and Knights will meet for the first time in 2018 after sharing the spoils at one apiece last season in two meetings between the clubs. These two sides have met 47 times prior to this weekend with Canberra dominating the fixture with 26 wins but most notably 18 of those victories at this venue while Newcastle have won 19 times but only 5 times at GIO Stadium. This match could be season defining for the Raiders who need a better start than last season to kick start their season.
This contest will be won in the halves, with the inclusion of former Sydney Roosters Connor Watson and Mitchell Pearce for Newcastle, it will be interesting to see how they steer the ship again this weekend after an impressive debut together last week. For Canberra it’s all about composure and building pressure, last week Blake Austin and Sam Williams didn’t force one repeat set, so that will need to improve if Canberra are any chance this week out.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will be looking for an 80-minute performance after Canberra ran away to 18-0 lead very early on last week on the Gold Coast, only to surrender that lead to lose. The Raiders only completed at 69% and they only had 40% of the ball. The Raiders lost 8 games by 6 points or less last season and that trend continued in round 1 with a two-point loss, this will frustrate Stuart who will certainly be addressing that this season.
For Newcastle, coach Nathan Brown will be full of confidence after last year’s cellar dwellers defeated a strong Manly side in golden point. In an off season of transition and with multiple personnel changes in the Knights roster, it will be refreshing to know they finally have a legitimate footy side after three consecutive wooden spoons. This will be another challenge for Newcastle as they head to the Nation’s Capital with a pretty dire record, but this is a very new Newcastle squad.
Canberra and Newcastle have met at this venue a total of 24 times with Canberra being very dominant with 18 wins, while Newcastle only have 5 with also one draw.
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Luke Batman Interchange: 14 Aiden Sezer, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Dunamis Lui, 17 Charlie Gubb Reserves: 18 Craig Garvey, 19 Michael Oldfield, 20 Royce Hunt, 21 Jack Murchie
Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Tautau Moga, 5 Nathan Ross, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Slade Griffin, 10 Jacob Lillyman, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Mitchell Barnett Interchange: 14 Brock Lamb, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Daniel Saifiti Reserves: 18 Ken Sio, 19 Jacob Saifiti, 20 Daniel Levi, 21 Luke Yates
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday, March 18
Venue: GIO Stadium
Kick-off: 6:30pm (local)
WHO WILL WIN?