Matt Attard previews Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Down on troops due to injury and Origin, the Knights almost snuck home against the New Zealand Warriors last weekend. Prior to that, their performances have remained consistently strong. They’ll be looking to make amends for their loss.
They’ve fought hard and struggled all season, however a last start win over the Cronulla Sharks will help their confidence heading into this clash, as well as extra time to recover thanks to the bye.
While they are without Kalyn Ponga, Lachlan Fitzgibbon (both injury) and Mitch Barnett (suspension) they will welcome back their Origin foursome including the very confident Mitchell Pearce fresh off a NSW series win.
Newcastle Knights squad: 1. Connor Watson 2. Hymel Hunt 3. Kurt Mann 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. James Gavet 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh King 11. Jamie Buhrer 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Jacob Saifiti 16. Phoenix Crossland 19. David Klemmer 21. Tim Glasby, 18. Tautau Moga, 20. Daniel Saifiti.
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Canterbury Bulldogs squad: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Brandon Wakeham 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Chris Smith 14. Adam Elliott 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Ofahiki Ogden 17. Sauaso Sue, 19. Jeremy Marshall-King, 21. Kerrod Holland.
HEAD TO HEAD
The last time these two teams met was in Brisbane during the NRL Magic Round. A victory to Newcastle was the likely outcome but it proved harder than many expected. Some late Ponga magic got them over the line. While they try hard, the fact is the Bulldogs don’t have a star roster with experience on their side. They’ll cop plenty more losses rather than wins as they continue to build towards 2020 when they’ll have left the Des Hasler-era and salary cap problems behind them.
Historically the Bulldogs have bashed teams through the middle, using their big men to strike fear into the opposition. The task for prop Dylan Napa will be to get the better of the game’s best proper David Klemmer. Napa is known for his ability to dish out punishing big hits and if the Dogs are to be any chance he has to fire early, as do the rest of the pack, to help shut down Klemmer and co from making the big yards.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, July 12 2019
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Referee: Matt Cecchin, Phil Henderson
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s hard to go past a Knights victory, but with their Origin stars backing up after just two days, the loss of Ponga and Fitzgibbon, plus the inclusion of 20-year-old Wakeham’s spark for the Bulldogs may see a closer than anticipated fixture. If the Knights can score early points they could wrap the game up quickly, with the Dogs struggling to score early in games and often unable to pile on points when needed. Newcastle Knights by 10.