Round 12 of the National Rugby League premiership concludes on Monday night when technically the bottom two clubs on the table clash head on at Hunter Stadium. While the official rugby league website has the Eels in sixth spot on twelve points, those points are set to be wiped. After another troubled week off the field, the Eels will be keen to get on the paddock and put a score on the Knights. As for Newcastle, Trent Hodkinson will be looking to steer the Hunter club to their third victory after giving Wests Tigers a fright last weekend at Campbelltown.
LAST TIME OUT
Newcastle Knights had a point to prove to their critics and fans after two consecutive weeks without scoring and in the process conceding one hundred points. With Trent Hodkinson back on board there was some hope that the Knights could push and maybe upset the Wests Tigers. In all fairness, there wasn’t too much between the sides throughout the game. In fact Newcastle taking the lead after half time thanks to Dane Gagai’s try. Unfortunately they tired towards the end of the second half and it was Luke Brooks try eleven minutes from time that handed Wests Tigers victory. Some good signs of fight from Newcastle with Akuila Uate having one of his better performances over the last couple of seasons.
Parramatta Eels were looking to put a heavy week behind them with allegations centred around Kieran Foran’s rehabilitation and Corey Norman’s night out at Star Casino. After letting slip victory against South Sydney a week earlier, the quest to make the finals was a going to require walking a very tight rope. Melbourne dominated the game and led 8-0 at the break before getting out to a sixteen point lead. Suliasi Vunivalu continuing his impressive rookie season with a double. The only joy for the Eels came late to Michael Jennings in the final minute. There were concerns for Michael Gordon after picking up a shoulder injury during the game. Kieran Foran was also under a cloud to play against the Knights as he continues rehabilitation.
There’s nothing better than a battle on the wing between two Fijian flyers, both at different stages of their careers. 2010 was a defining year for Akuila Uate, scoring 21 tries in 24 game and was fast becoming one of the most exciting players in the game. The last couple of years he hasn’t had the same impact and has generally struggled to get anywhere near his career best form. Last week we saw a little aggression from the twenty-eight year old which lifted the Knights to an improved performance. As for Semi Radradra, his rise as the best winger in our game has reached a peak having made the Australian National side earlier this month for the ANZAC test. He is the most feared winger in the competition and has the stats to prove it. Fifty-six tries in fifty-nine games and will be looking to improve on his two tries in three appearances against the Knights when he turns out on Monday night. A head-to-head battle worth watching.
It’s unusual at this time of year to have two quality halfbacks playing against each other in a game just two days out from State of Origin. While Kieran Foran doesn’t meet the eligibility rules, Trent Hodkinson was left out of the New South Wales side. He was a victim of the Blues thrashing at Suncorp Stadium last July. Both will be keen to get out on the field and determine who wins this game. Hodkinson the tactical type of half and Foran, not afraid to take on the line and ask questions of the defence – something that will trouble the Knights if he takes the field this weekend.
Newcastle have nine of their last fifteen matches at home this year after already playing seven on the road. So you would expect their form to improve week by week playing in front of their home crowd. Parramatta have a good record on the road having won three of four. The game becomes harder to predict considering all the off-field distractions at Parramatta. So they’res a chance Newcastle could pull off an upset and for Trent Hodkinson to remind selectors that he is an option at halfback for New South Wales if everything goes pear shaped on Wednesday night at ANZ Stadium.
Knights by 2.
Knights: 1 Jake Mamo 2 Cory Denniss 3 Sione Mata’utia 4 Nathan Ross 5 Akuila Uate 6 Jaelen Feeney 7 Trent Hodkinson 8 Sam Mataora 9 Danny Levi 10 Daniel Saifiti 11 Tariq Sims 12 Pauli Pauli 13 Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14 Tyler Randell 15 Korbin Sims 16 Joshua King 17 Mickey Paea 18 David Bhana 19 Pat Mata’utia
Eels: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Semi Radradra, 3 Vai Afu Toutai, 4 Bradley Takairangi, 5 Clinton Gutherson, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Kieran Foran, 8 Junior Paulo, 9 Isaac De Gois, 10 Danny Wicks, 11 Manu Ma’u, 12 Beau Scott, 13 Tepai Moeroa. Interchange: 14 Kaysa Pritchard, 15 Peni Terepo, 16 David Gower, 17 Kenneth Edwards
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Kick-off: Monday 7pm