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2021 NRL Round 14 Preview, Rabbitohs Vs Knights

Julian Vella previews this Round 14 clash between the high flying Rabbitohs and the struggling Knights. This is what we have to look forward to.

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TEAM NEWS

Venue: Stadium Australia, Date: 12/6, Time: 5:30pm

Rabbitohs Team

1. Latrell Mitchell
2. Alex Johnston
3. Braidon Burns
4. Campbell Graham
5. Taane Milne
6. Cody Walker
7. Adam Reynolds
8. Mark Nicholls
9. Damien Cook
10. Tevita Tatola
11. Keaon Koloamatangi
12. Jacob Host
13. Cameron Murray
14. Benji Marshall
15. Jaydn Su’A
16. Hame Sele
17. Thomas Burgess
18. Liam Knight
19. Patrick Mago
20. Blake Taaffe
21. Josh Mansour
22. Tautau Moga
23. Peter Mamouzelos

Team Changes

IN: Braidon Burns, Josh Mansour, Liam Knights, Patrick Mago, Blake Taafe, Tautau Moga, Peter Mamouzelos
OUT: Dane Gagai, Jai Arrow

Knights Team

1. Tex Hoy
2. Enari Tuala
3. Kurt Mann
4. Bradman Best
5. Brayden Musgrove
6. Jake Clifford
7. Phoenix Crossland
8. Jacob Saifiti
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Daniel Saifiti
11. Brodie Jones
12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
13. Mitchell Barnett
14. Connor Watson
15. Sauaso Sue
16. Josh King
17. Jack Johns
18. Gehamat Shibasaki
19. Jirah Momoisea
20. Matt Croker
21. Dominic Young

Team Changes

IN: Phoenix Crossland, Daniel Saifiti, Gehamat Shibasaki, Jirah Momoisea, Dominic Young
OUT: Starford To’a, Simi Sasagi

Referee: Chris Butler

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Rabbitohs

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Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs side will be coming into this clash fresh off a weeks rest after enjoying a bye week in Round 13, although they have named four of their six Origin representatives in their line up this week. It’s unclear at this stage which players will back up, Cameron Murray went off in the second half for a HIA, with player welfare such a big issue at the moment Souths might decide to put him on ice this weekend.

Bennett has already decided to rest Dane Gagai and Jai Arrow, as he didn’t name them in the squad to play when announced on Tuesday, this gives Braidon Burns and Jacob Host a chance to impress after reduced chances so far this season. The Rabbitohs will look to find the rhythm they finished with in their previous game two weeks ago against the Parramatta Eels, the Bunnies ran in seven tries that night as they kicked back into form.

Knights

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The story of the Knights’ season so far in 2021 has been, one step forward followed by two steps back. Every time the Knights put in a good performance and make you think they’ve turned a corner, they follow it up with disastrous showing putting them back to square one. Their gutsy Round 12 win over a red-hot Manly side was followed up with a 40-4 flogging at home to Parramatta on old boys day, the Knights have always prided themselves on putting in a brave performance on old boys day, but they left the 23,000 strong crowd disappointed.

Once again injuries and suspensions played their part as coach Adam O’Brien was left to name a side without his five best players in Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Tyson Frizell, Daniel Saifiti and David Klemmer. Young halfback Phoenix Crossland was also a late exclusion as he failed to recover from a calf injury in time. Crossland will return to the side this week and partner new recruit Jake Clifford in the halves, this will be Newcastle’s ninth different halves pairing this season, a fair reflection of the club’s struggles this season both with injury and form.

PREVIEW

A game of rugby league is played on a field over 100 metres long and roughly 68 metres wide, these days a team is made up of 18 players, along with the coaching staff, trainers and back staff. This suggests there are many different compartments to the game with key battles all over the field, teams will identify their strengths and play to them, whilst also trying to hide and protect their weaknesses.

This game is no different, but for the fact that the Rabbitohs’ strength and biggest weapon is their left side attack, whilst for the struggling Knights who have many problems, but none more so than their right side defence. Whilst Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell have been combining and laying on tries for Gagai and Alex Johnston like clockwork so far this year, the Knights have been leaking as many tries down their right side.

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Parramatta’s Waqa Blake and Maika Sivo had a field day last week down the Knights’ right side, so we can expect Souths to continue with what they know works and send most of their plays that way, whilst Newcastle will be spending all week trying to work out how to do what no one else this season has been able to do, stop the Souths’ left side attack.

Whilst the key battle of this game will be played down a 20 metre corridor of the field, if Newcastle are able to defy the stats and nullify the Bunnies attack, the job is only half done for the Knights, where will they score their points? Newcastle have had their issues in both defence and attack this year, at this stage of the season they are the 3rd worst point scoring side in the competition, with only the Broncos and Bulldogs below them.

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Injuries and disruption to their spine have been the major cause of their attacking woes, with marquee players Pearce and Ponga yet to take the field together this season. So if the Knights are to spring a surprise and win don’t expect it to be a high scoring affair, Newcastle will look to reapply the game plan that served them well against Manly. The Knights will look to play a conservative game, hold the ball kick to the corners and don’t hand over cheap possession giving Souths dangerous field position.

Whilst in theory the plan sounds simple, don’t give Souths field position to score easy points, the problem is the Bunnies can hurt you from anywhere on the park. Long distance tries have become a thing of beauty for Souths, especially when they’re in the mood to entertain, but that has been an issue for the Myrtle and Green who have struggled with inconsistency all season. Newcastle will look to stick to their conservative game plan and hope the Rabbitohs have an off night.

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KEY STAT

Alex Johnston has scored 12 tries so far this season as he looks to defend his mantle as the games leading try-scorer from last year. Johnston has always enjoyed playing against the Knights scoring 12 tries in his 8 appearances against them, he will look to inflict further pain on the Novocastrians on Saturday

PREDICTION

It’s hard to go past a team sitting in the top four against a side struggling towards the bottom of the ladder, however similar things were said when Newcastle took on Manly a couple of weeks back. In saying this The Knights are missing more troops since then which is really testing their depth, taking this into consideration it could be a long afternoon for Newcastle. Souths 13+ 

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