Knights v Eels Preview

Knights v Eels
EnergyAustralia Stadium
Monday 7pm

NEW-CAST-LE… New-cast-le… New-cast-le. Come on you Novocastrian fans: we can’t do it for you! Calling all true blue Knights faithful… It’s a call to arms… your team needs you!

That’s right, despite the fact there are still 11 rounds after this one, it is this match against the Eels, here in Round 15, which shapes as the final throw of the dice.
Languishing in 14th spot on the ladder after another home loss to the Warriors, the Knights are six competition points adrift of the top eight.

Another loss will have them eight in arrears and push them into a scenario where they’d need to win eight of their final 10 just to get a look in. Do-able yes: but about as likely as the Johns brothers coming out of retirement to lead the way.

As such the Knights are calling for a full house to put the pressure on the Eels, who currently sit in ninth place and also need a win to stay on track.

The Knights are hoping to have skipper Kurt Gidley back from Origin duty at fullback, which sees Wes Naiqama go to the bench. Adam MacDougall has also been named, sending Keith Lulia out of the side.

Scott Dureau has been dropped (again), with Ben Rogers to play five-eighth and Jarrod Mullen to move to halfback.

Cameron Ciraldo is also out, with Joel Edwards added as an 18th man.
One of five teams on 16 competition points, the Eels are the unlucky ones to be outside the finals zone on percentages and are fully aware a loss here would keep them on the outer.

A win, however, would have them inside the top eight, as their differential would overtake the Roosters at very least.

Having come off the bye the side is well rested and needs just Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Hindmarsh to get through Origin. They welcome Eric Grothe back on the wing, with Krisnan Inu relegated to the bench.

Watch out Knights: The Eels are making more running and kick metres than the Knights – this could cause a problem in field position for the home side.

Parramatta average 1341 running metres each week, a full 108 metres more than the Knights’ average of 1233 metres. They also average an impressive 165 more metres kicking than their rivals, with 654 metres a game compared to 489 metres.

If the Eels dominate field position they are likely to win, simple as that.
Of course, Timana Tahu could be in for a huge game. After pulling out of Origin through the racism scandal you can bet he’d love to play a blinder against his former club.

Watch out Eels: Ben Rogers returns to the Knights’ line-up fully aware the side hasn’t been able to get things going in the halves. Scott Dureau hasn’t been able to fire and Jarrod Mullen is having a year to forget. Even Kurt Gidley has played in the halves as they search for answers.

Rogers might be a fringe player but he certainly has a huge game in him every so often – and perhaps this is one such occasion.

In his four matches this year Rogers has one line-break, four line-break assists, a try and five try assists.

Another mention of Akuila Uate here… he’s now made 19 line-breaks, which is already the second most by any Knights player in a season over the past decade!

Where it will be won: Second-phase quality. Both teams like to offload the football as part of their attacking structure and as such you can expect to see the promotion of the football often here.

But the winning factor will come from the quality of said offloads. The Eels are the offload kings, averaging 16.92 a game, well ahead of any other team in the NRL. The Knights are ranked seventh in the competition with 12.62 offloads each week.

Both sides are experts at shutting down the offload, the Eels allow just 10 a match, the Knights 10.08, to be ranked one and two in the NRL.

Three of the NRL’s top 10 offloaders are in this game in Feleti Mateo (29 offloads, ranked third), Nathan Hindmarsh (26 offloads, ranked equal seventh) and Cory Paterson (26 offloads, ranked equal seventh).

The side that can turn offloads into breaks or tries more often will be heading to a win. Parramatta has six tries this season direct from an offload, the Knights just two.

The history: Played 39; Knights 19, Eels 19, drawn 1. The head-to-head ledger is all squared up but surely someone will take the lead here. The Eels have won three of the past four games between the clubs, including both encounters last season. 

Conclusion: This should be Parramatta’s game but they’ll need Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Hindmarsh to come through Origin unscathed to stay heavy favourites.

Without this duo they struggle. The Knights just haven’t proven to be an 80-minute team this season and after last weeks home loss to the Warriors, faith from the tipsters has to be all but gone.

Match officials: Referees – Matt Cecchin & Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7pm.

* Statistics: NRL Stats.