Saturday 3pm (AEDT)
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights, sounds familiar right?
While last weekend we were celebrating the Men of League Heritage Round, this weekend we will be celebrating the 'NRL Déjà vu Round' with four sides (including our combatants here) involved in match-ups that occurred in Round 2 – a mere month ago, when the Raiders beat Newcastle 26-20.
Much like last time, both sides are entrenched in the bottom six of the competition, the Raiders are coming off a six-point loss and the Knights are looking to bounce back after being beaten by 20-plus. In a four-week cycle, the Raiders and Knights have travelled full circle to return back to this point, once again arriving at critical parts of their seasons – where nothing but a 'W' next to their name will be touted as a success.
The Raiders will welcome back Australian international Josh Papalii (who was injured the last time these two teams played), Shannon Boyd and Jarrad Kennedy at the expense of Kyle O'Donnell, Joel Edwards and Jake Foster. Foster and O'Donnell drop back to NSW Cup while Edwards has been rested following consecutive concussions over the past fortnight. Bill Tupou reclaims his wing spot from Sami Sauiluma. The Knights are unchanged from last Monday night's game – although there are whispers that Jarrod Mullen may return. UPDATE: Jarrod Mullen is into the starting side in place of Michael Dobson, in one of three changes for Newcastle.
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The Newcastle Knights seemed flat against the Cowboys on Monday night. After an emotion-charged win over the Sharks the week prior the Knights struggled to reach any great heights in Round 5. Coach Wayne Bennett will have realised this and the Knights will most likely be concentrating on refocusing their emotions towards building positive energy on the field. The only way is up for Newcastle.
Watch Out Knights: There was only one reason why the Raiders won the last time these two teams met – Anthony Milford. The brilliant fullback flexed his class with three line-breaks, a try-assist and 208 metres, single-handedly getting the Raiders over the line for their first win of the year. Milford hasn't stopped there though. Throughout this season, he is managing an average of 121.1 metres per game and has produced two tries, 26 tackles breaks (3rd in the NRL), four try assists and six line-breaks (equal 3rd in the NRL).
Another interesting occurrence that the Knights should be wary of is that this season the Raiders have backed up every single one of their losses with a win the next week. They beat the Knights after losing to the Cowboys and they smashed the Rabbitohs after faltering to the Titans. Last week they lost to Penrith. Does this mean a win beckons? Time will tell.
With Canberra's edge defence being exposed against the Panthers expect the Knights to throw it out wide to the likes of Leilua, Gagai and Uate. Leilua especially has shone in recent weeks and could make his opposite edge in the form of Allwood and Robinson pay this week - especially with the try-scoring prowess of James McManus outside him.
Where It Will Be Won: The Raiders’ performance against the Panthers last weekend proved that if you don't capitalise on the opportunities presented then the game won't be won. Despite conceding less penalties and making less errors then their opponents, the Raiders weren't good enough to put the Mountain Men away. This comes back to the likes of Campese and Wighton getting their troops on the front foot and ensuring the game plan is stuck to.
The Knights just need to concentrate on bringing it back to basics at this point in time. Being victorious in only one game this year, the Knights need to cut the errors and poor discipline from their game if they are to be any kind of chance.
The History: Played 40; Knights 17, Raiders 22, Draw 1. It was only four weeks ago when the Raiders prevailed 26-20 in Newcastle in a game where either side could've won. Since 2011, the Knights have four of their past six games – the Knights winning two consecutive games to the one Raiders victory. If history has anything to do with this match then look for the Knights to continue on with this tradition.
What Are The Odds: The Raiders have been smashed by punters at Sportsbet.com.au – money is 15 to 1 in favour of Canberra, who are the $1.80 favourites in head-to-head betting. The Knights have eased from $1.83 out to $1.98 as a result.
Match Officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Rickey MacFarlane & Dave Ryan; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Reece Williams.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 3pm (AEST)
The Way We See It: Unlike last time, the Knights do not have anyone in doubt. While the hot-and-cold Canberra will be looking to make amends for last weekend, Darius Boyd will bolster the Knights against a side he didn't play in Round 2. This result is dependent on whether Jarrod Mullen is a late inclusion – if he plays the Knights will lift and win. If he doesn't, then expect the opposite result. Taking the Mullen factor into account, either side will win by a try.