Knights v Raiders
Sunday 6.30pm (AEDT)
Kurt Gidley. Tyrone Roberts. Jarrod Mullen. Darius Boyd. Between them they have racked up 622 games, 30 Origins and 29 Tests - and all of them are injured. While Mullen didn’t even make it out onto Sportingbet Stadium for his side’s 30-8 defeat to Penrith – Roberts, Gidley and Boyd failed to reach the fulltime siren at Sportingbet Stadium.
This early season injury crisis is far from an ideal: the importance of the spine to any side is quintessential and the Knights are no exception.
Meanwhile the Raiders kicked off proceedings for their 2014 season like a house on fire against the Cowboys. Up 16-0 after 27 minutes, the Raiders were eventually outgunned by the Johnathan Thurston show, in the end tipped out 28-22. Despite losing their way, there were promising signs from young guns Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton while Terry Campese turned back the clock in a good showing for the Green Machine.
In team changes for Members' Round, the Knights have named Gidley and Roberts – however, the new rules surrounding concussions mean they are still no certainties to start this game and will need to pass medical assessment later in the week to take their places.
Should Gidley play he'll start in the No.1 for Boyd. Matt Minto and Jake Mamo have been named on an extended bench to cover for Gidley and Roberts, while David Fa’alogo comes into the 17. The Raiders remain unchanged from last weekend.
In milestone news, Raiders prop Brett White will play his 50th game for the Green Machine.
Watch Out Knights: Those Novocastrians looking to sit back, relax and watch last Saturday’s encounter with the Panthers were left with a bad taste in their mouths as early as halftime. Incapable of holding the ball for the better half of a mere set of six at one point, the Knights left Sportingbet Stadium with a disappointing completion rate and 16 errors to boot. For the Knights to even go close to getting the two points this weekend they’ll need to drastically improve in this area.
The Knights should also be on the lookout for the Raiders bench, consisting of Josh McCrone, Jarrad Kennedy, Paul Vaughan and Shannon Boyd. The experienced McCrone replaced Glen Buttriss at hooker to great effect while Vaughan carried his World Cup form for Italy into the game with some brilliant and damaging hit-ups.
Watch Out Raiders: There are not many sides that could lay claim to playing as good as Canberra did in the first 30 minutes of their season. Up against the might of Thurston and his Cowboys, the Raiders were up 16-0 after 27 minutes thanks to the likes of try-scorers Edrick Lee, Jarrad Croker and Queensland & Australian World Cup back-rower Josh Papalii – then it all fell apart. The Raiders must look to avoid such predicaments again when push comes to shove.
While the Knights were practically shooting themselves in the foot throughout the game, the Panthers weren’t able to cross the white stripe until the closing moments of the first half. Such defensive steel - backed up by the fact that the Knights, through Beau Scott, scored in one of their first opportunities at attacking the Panthers try line – is something the Raiders must look out for.
Plays To Watch: Shaun Fensom covering the bases– was an absolute machine in both attack and defence; Travis Waddell – tackling machine – filled the void left by Kurt Gidley with a mountain of tackles after starting from the bench last weekend; Anthony Milford – double trouble – set up Canberra’s first try last weekend before scoring one himself; Michael Dobson – assistance required – managed to garner a try assist in what was the Knights' only try last weekend.
Where It’ll Be Won: Watching the momentum slip from each of these respective sides’ hands this past weekend only demonstrated that maintaining the flow of the game is an absolute essential in rugby league. Both of these sides struggled to hold onto the ball last weekend and this undoubtedly affected their momentum. While the Raiders' completions fared a little better, the Knights were an absolute shambles. Unfortunately for both sides, you can’t score without the ball so the side that manages to maintain possession effectively should go very close to winning the two competition points.
The History: The Knights and Raiders have shared the points the past two seasons – each winning a game. The Knights have only lost once to the Raiders at Hunter Stadium since 2006 although Canberra won 44-14 in the last game they played (Round 9, 2013).
What Are The Odds: Punters reckon it will be zero from two for Bennett and the Knights with money flowing four to one in favour of the Raiders with Sportsbet.com.au - despite them being the $2.50 outsiders for the clash. The Knights are paying $1.53 but will start to drift if money continues to poor in for the Raiders.
Match Officials: Referees – Adam Devcich & Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Nick Beashel & Dave Ryan; Video Referees – Luke Phillips & Reece Williams.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 6:30pm (AEDT).
The Way We See It: The injuries sustained by Newcastle this past weekend may be just a stretch too far to bounce back from. Such an unfortunate injury crisis so early in the season can only be a disheartening thing. A team can’t walk without their spine. If the Raiders are able to harness their form from the early stages of their game with Cowboys then they should prove too strong for the depleted Knights. Raiders by four points.
• Statistics: Champion Data.
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