Newcastle Knights v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
We have a game on our hands!
Before Newcastle's game against Melbourne last Monday, this game was expected to go one way – an easy victory to the Bulldogs.
Yet here we are. Newcastle were shock 14-point victors over the Storm to record their second-straight victory and now emerge as genuine contenders to impact the Bulldogs' road to the finals.
The Bulldogs aren't going to be pushovers like their Storm counterparts especially considering their own 14-point win over reigning premiers South Sydney last Friday.
Considering Des Hasler's team is unchanged, with Josh Reynolds threatening to be the only late-inclusion, the Bulldogs could stand tall and ruin Newcastle's budding parade.
Beau Scott will be welcomed back for Newcastle's Old Boys' Day at the expense of Sam Mataora, in an afternoon where the Knights celebrate the 250th NRL game of captain and the club's outright second-most capped player Kurt Gidley, in his final game at Hunter Stadium, and Akuila Uate's 150th NRL appearance.
Watch out Knights: Hooker Damien Cook caused all sorts of problems for the Rabbitohs in the middle of the paddock last weekend. In a resurgent victory for the Bulldogs, they'll be looking to keep the good times rolling especially with their bullocking forward pack backing up the diminutive rake. Jumping out of dummy-half in a flash, Cook set up one try and scored another and proved he wasn't to be messed with by the opposition pack after making 49 tackles.
Watch out Bulldogs: To celebrate his 250th and final NRL game at Hunter Stadium, the Knights are sure to get around their departing captain Gidley for this one. Gidley has been a part of the furniture at the club since his debut in 2001 and you'd be a tough taskmaster if you don't think his teammates will be up for a big one especially on Newcastle's famed Old Boys' Day. The Knights last week starved their Storm opposition of the ball. If anything similar occurs then it'll be hard for the Bulldogs to work their way into this one.
Key Match-Up: Tyrone Roberts v Trent Hodkinson – Trent Hodkinson will take Tyrone Roberts No.7 jersey at Newcastle next year will should provide an interesting subplot in this clash. Since sorting his future with the Gold Coast, Roberts has starred for the Novocastrians including a Man of the Match performance against Melbourne where he forced four dropouts and had the ball on a string .
The History: Played 41; Knights 20, Bulldogs 20, Drawn 1. These two haven't played one another since early last year but in terms of recent history the Knights hold the aces when it comes to playing the Bulldogs. Newcastle has won six of their past nine against Canterbury and knocked them out of the 2013 Telstra Premiership finals series on their way to a shock preliminary final appearance.
What are the Odds: A staggering 90 per cent of all money wagered with Sportsbet has been placed on the Bulldogs as far as head to head is concerned. There’s more cash bet on the Dogs to win 13-plus than all of the other margin combinations combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Adam Devcich. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Sideline Officials: David Ryan and Jon Stone. Video Referees: Steve Clark and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – 5:30pm
The Way We See It: If the Bulldogs' premiership credentials are fair dinkum then they should beat the Knights. Despite their recent woes against Newcastle and the fact very few away teams have won on Old Boys' Day, if the Bulldogs don't emerge victorious then it's another unexpected event to occur in trying to determine who will stand tall at season's end. Bulldogs by two points.