Mark Barnes previews the Friday night clash between Newcastle and South Sydney …
Newcastle Knights Vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Date: Friday July 8, 7:55pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List Tuesday
Knights: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Dominic Young 6. Anthony Milford 7. Adam Clune 8. David Klemmer 9. Chris Randall 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Kurt Mann 14. Jayden Brailey 15. TBA 16. Leo Thompson 17. Mathew Croker 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Pasami Saulo 20. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 21. Hymel Hunt 22. Jake Clifford
Two big changes for Newcastle, with Jayden Brailey and Bradman Best returning from injury. Simi Sasagi is 18th Man. Jacob Saifiti is a late call-up for NSW’s Origin side, replacing Jordan McLean.Embed from Getty Images
Rabbitohs: 1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Alex Johnston 3. Taane Milne 4. Isaiah Tass 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Lachlan Ilias 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Siliva Havili 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Keaon Koloamatangi 12. Jed Cartwright 13. Mark Nicholls 14. Kodi Nikorima 15. Blake Taaffe 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Davvy Moale 18. Daniel Suluka-Fifita 19. Ben Lovett 20. Richard Kennar 21. Shaq Mitchell 22. Dean Hawkins
Taane Milne replaces the injured Campbell Graham, and Thomas Burgess replaces Hame Sele. Latrell Mitchell captains Souths for the first time.Embed from Getty Images
Referee: Todd Smith
This game will be of huge importance to both these side’s future hopes of playing finals football. The Newcastle Knights kept their season alive in emphatic fashion against the Titans last week with a thumping 38-12 victory: made even more impressive with the absence of Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga. They piled on their highest score of the season thanks to an incredible eight-try performance, all scored by wingers Edrick Lee (five) and Dominic Young (three).
The Knights moved to 12th place on the ladder and they’ll look to carry that momentum into Friday night when they face the South Sydney Rabbitohs at McDonald Jones Stadium; once again they will have Ponga missing due to State of Origin duty.
The Bunnies had a huge win in the context of the season, beating the Eels 30-12 last week to solidify their spot in the eight, but they do have teams breathing down their neck and can be back out of the eight as early as next week.
The Origin decider means Damien Cook, Cameron Murray, and Jai Arrow are all unavailable for South Sydney, along with injured duo Campbell Graham and Hame Sele. As such, Siliva Havili, Mark Nicholls, Jed Cartwright, Taane Milne, and Tom Burgess have entered the starting 13 for Souths. Latrell Mitchell was sensational last week and much of the Rabbits’ ability to secure a win this week rests on his shoulders. After his first game back – where he was impressive and helped the Rabbits’ attack fire versus NRL heavyweight Parramatta – it will be up to him again, along with Cody Walker, to steer an understrength South Sydney to an important victory.
Whilst South Sydney welcomed back Latrell last week, the Knights received two huge boosts for this clash with Bradman Best and Jayden Brailey both returning from long injury stints. Earlier in the season this would be considered an easy South Sydney win perhaps, but with the amount of players out for the Rabbits and thin on depth, it will be much harder to come away with a victory against a buoyed Knights side playing at home after a big victory.
The Knights haven’t won back-to-back games since rounds 1-2 this season, whilst Souths have won three out of their last four, including 14 and 26 point victories in the last two matches against Newcastle. As well as that, Souths have won the last game played at McDonald Jones Stadium back in 2018.
All the numbers and history points to a South Sydney victory; but with current form and the squads named, it shapes as potentially a much closer contest than the betting markets suggest, with the Knights huge outsiders.
The game could very well be decided in the forwards, with Newcastle having a distinct advantage there, and if they dominate the forward battle it could make life very hard for X-Factors Mitchell and Walker to operate. If the South Sydney forward pack can muscle up and compete with Newcastle’s biggest strength in their pack, expect Mitchell and Walker to dominate and Alex Johnston to add to his already outstanding try tally for 2022.Embed from Getty Images
The Newcastle Knights have won 16 out of 22 matches against South Sydney at McDonald Jones Stadium, with a 73% winning record. The Knights also hold a distinct 27-18 overall record against Souths.
Rabbitohs by 10
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