Round three of the NRL Premiership closes off with a story line match up between Cooper Cronk and the Sydney Roosters against the returning Mitchell Pearce and his Newcastle Knights, as the former Roosters play maker tries to gain bragging rights over the club who let him go.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After starting the season with an underwhelming loss to the Tigers the boys from Bondi bounced back with an emphatic win over the Bulldogs last week showing signs of the type of form expected from the preseason premiership favourites. New recruits Cooper Cronk and James Tedesco were much improved from round 1 and their combination is starting to take shape, the inclusion of Luke Keary was also felt with his direct play helping the shape of the Tri Colours attack.
Much was expected from the new look Knights side going into season 2018 and Nathan Brown’s side have delivered with back to back wins to start the year, despite still clearly having a few things to work on Brown will be most pleased with the fact his side has won two tight affairs after losing plenty of matches last year from winning positions. The combination of the new recruits Mitchell Pearce and Kayln Ponga has taken no time to fuse which will again please coach Brown.
The Roosters have made a few changes to the make up of their winning side from last week with the most notable change being Jared Waerea-Hargreaves being relegated to the bench for Dylan Napa. Veteran winger Reece Robinson will also make his club debut on the wing for the injured Daniel Tupou, whilst Ryan Matterson has again been named on the bench despite starting both games this season.
The Knights welcome back co-captain Jamie Burher after he was a late scratching from last weeks win over Canberra, he’ll take his place on the bench with Jake Saifiti moving back to the reserves. Brown might be tempted to give Saifiti a reprieve and leave out Brock Lamb to add another big body as he tries to gain an advantage in the battle of the big men.
In years gone by the battle between the Roosters and Knights was one of the marquee encounters of the season with both sides entrenched at the top of the table and who often had their paths meet during finals time.
From 1998 to 2003 the two sides met five times in September as the two clubs built a healthy rivalry, but in recent years the fortunes of the two sides couldn’t be further apart as the struggling Knights have picked up the last three wooden spoons and haven’t played finals football since 2013. In that year the Roosters won the Premiership and have picked up three more minor premierships during that time.
But the rivalry has once again had life breathed into it with the resurgent Knights boasting five ex Roosters most notably halfback Pearce returning to Allianz stadium for the first time which is sure to add some extra feeling between the two sides with a few Knights players having more than just the two competition points to play for.
Whilst the match up between the halfbacks Cronk and Pearce is the obvious one there are plenty of key battles to be played out during this match, the dual between the fullbacks Tedesco and Ponga will be one to watch whilst the battle of the big men will also be key with both sides needing to tighten things up through the middle. Another exciting match up is that of young centres Latrel Mitchell and Sione Mata’utia who will come face to face, both players have plenty of potential and despite being different styles of player they both posses a strong power game.
“It hasn’t started yet but I’m sure there will be a few text messages in the next coming days, yeah like you said it’s a big game” – Boyd Cordner when asked about the banter between his ex team mates
“He said he’s going to smash Boyd Cordner” – Nathan Brown making light of the situation when Mitchell Pearce was asked about facing the Roosters
In what is an amazing stat this current Knights side has more than double the amount of appearances for the Roosters than they do for the Knights, Newcastle’s 17 players named for this clash boast 673 Roosters appearances compared to just 285 for the Knights.
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Reece Robinson, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Dylan Napa, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Ryan Matterson, 13 Isaac Liu, 14 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Victor Radley, 18 Nat Butcher, 19 Kurt Baptiste, 20 Mitchell Cornish, 23 Frank-Paul Nuuausala
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, 14 Brock Lamb, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jamie Buhrer (c), 17 Daniel Saifiti, 18 Ken Sio, 19 Jacob Saifiti, 20 Danny Levi, 21 Luke Yates
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Moore Park
WHO WILL WIN?
Expect plenty of feeling between these two sides and a much closer contest then what there has been in last few years, this game will go down to the wire with Newcastle to claim a memorable win.