Andrew Pelechaty previews the battle between the undefeated Raiders and Knights at Campbelltown Stadium. This is what we have to look forward to.
Canberra went to Melbourne, the site of two of their biggest wins last year, and did it again. Jordan Rapana and Nick Cotric gave the Raiders a 12-0 lead after 14 minutes. They successfully defended an 18-6 halftime lead, though the Storm had a surprisingly high error count – bombing a number of tries – while Joseph Tapine saved a certain try to Justin Olam with minutes left. Canberra iced their 22-6 win with a late try to Tapine. The Raiders’ newest English recruit George Williams was astounding, setting up tries for Cotric and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. While Melbourne weren’t at their best, the 3-0, second-placed Raiders showed they will be a force in 2020.
Newcastle showed incredible spirit to turn a potential thrashing into a 14-14 Golden Point draw against Penrith at Campbelltown. The Knights lost playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson in the first 10 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, Penrith led 14-0 and it looked like a long afternoon for Newcastle. Jacob Saifiti scored right on halftime to cut the margin to eight, before a double to Bradman Best (a clear winner for the best player name in the NRL) levelled the scores. Both sides squandered field goal shots, with poor old Matt Burton missing numerous attempts. Considering their nightmare opening 25 minutes, Newcastle would consider one point almost as good as a win.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Corey Horsburgh, 12. Joe Tapine, 13. Corey Horsburgh, 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Jordan Rapana, 18. Tom Starling, 19. Matt Frawley, 20. Kai O’Donnell, 21. Michael Oldfield.
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Aidan Guerra, 12. Sione Mata’utia, 13. Herman Ese’ese, 14. Tex Hoy, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Tim Glasby, 17. Brodie Jones, 18. Gehamat Shibasaki, 19. Chris Randall, 20. Mason Lino, 21. Pasami Saulo.
Canberra and Newcastle played once in 2019: the Raiders winning 17-10 in round three, after leading 12-4 at halftime. The Raiders’ then-new recruit Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored two tries, with Sam Williams (who also scored a try) kicking the insurance field goal. Jesse Ramien and Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored for Newcastle.
Since 1998, Canberra have a 19-17 lead with two draws. While Newcastle have struggled in recent years, they’ve always lifted against Canberra, including a 30-28 win at Canberra in round two, 2018, outscoring the Raiders five tries to four (Aidan Guerra, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Tautau Moga, Connor Watson, and Sione Mata’utia scoring).
BATTLE TO WATCH
George Williams v Mitchell Pearce
The clash of the playmakers could decide this one. Williams played his best game in lime green so far last Saturday, setting up two of Canberra’s three first half tries. While it was only one game, his performance showed he has the potential to give the NRL a real crack.
Pearce only played four minutes last Sunday, but the Knights rallied to pinch a dramatic draw against Penrith without him. Pearce will be hoping to stay healthy – and play a big role with halves partner Kurt Mann – if his Knights are to beat Canberra.
Both these teams come off incredible performances, but what will the mental toll be, especially for Newcastle? The Raiders’ big hurdle will be flying in and out from Canberra on game day, though a Sunday afternoon game (and a rare free-to-air appearance) will be easier to adjust to than a Saturday night game. Canberra will fancy themselves after knocking off Melbourne, though Newcastle will push them all the way.
Canberra by four.
Date: Sunday June 7.
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney.