Schick Hydro Preview: Brisbane Broncos v Newcastle Knights
Newcastle will travel up to Suncorp Stadium full of confidence after recording their first win of the season against the Wests Tigers last weekend and it appears the Knights now believe they can win close games, something they had failed to do before last Sunday.
For Brisbane, this match will be about improving on their 26-0 thumping of St George Illawarra.
That might sound like a strange statement, but Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was far from happy with his team's 'disjointed' performance and the master coach will expect more from his troops come Saturday.
Newcastle will be hungry to chalk up a win against their old coach and their win last week may just give them the confidence and momentum to push the premiership favourites all the way.
The Knights welcome back Sione Mata'utia after the 19-year-old missed last week's clash with the Tigers because of concussion. It means Jaelen Feeney will drop out of the 17.
Brisbane will be looking at continuing to build team cohesion, with the Broncos fielding an unchanged line-up for the third week in a row.
Watch out Broncos: Dane Gagai hit form last week, running for a total of 218 metres and making five tackle breaks. The 25-year-old fullback holds the key for Newcastle in attack and the Knights desperately need him to fire against his former club. With State of Origin on the horizon, Queensland coach Kevin Walters will be looking for a big performance from Gagai against quality opposition. Gagai must keep improving. If he can improve on his stellar performance from last weekend then Newcastle may just find a way to put some pressure on a well-drilled Broncos defence.
Watch out Knights: The Knights will have to try and break down the equal second best defence in the competition. Brisbane have only conceded 73 points this season, a stark difference to the 110 they had conceded at the same time last year. Opposition teams have only been able to cross Brisbane's line 12 times so far this season and this equates to just twice per game. It's a worrying sign for a Knights side that have only been able to score 15 tries for the whole season. The Broncos have kept three opposition sides to 10 points or less and they may add a fourth if Newcastle don't find a spark in attack. The Knights have managed 92 points in attack for the whole season – the second worst of any team.
Key match-up: Ben Hunt v Trent Hodkinson. Hunt will be full of confidence this week, after the 26-year-old put in his best performance of 2016 last weekend. Hunt had three try assists, with two of those coming off his short kicking game. All the focus has been on Anthony Milford this year, but Hunt has been performing just as well, sitting equal second for try assists in the NRL with seven. Hodkinson on the other hand has struggled at a new club he and is yet to find form, with the 27-year-old only putting together four try assists in six games this season. He will need to match Hunt come Saturday if the Knights are to be any chance. Whichever halfback has the better game will ultimately give their team the best chance of taking home the two points.
The history: Played 45; Broncos 31, Knights 13, Drawn 1. The Broncos have dominated Newcastle in recent history, with Brisbane winning their last four against the Knights by an average of 26 points. Newcastle's last win at Suncorp Stadium came in 2013 and since then it has been all Brisbane. Their one draw came in that same season and Newcastle fans will be happy if their team can leave Brisbane with at least one point. Brisbane's biggest ever NRL win came in 2007 against the Knights, winning 71-6.
What are the odds: Broncos $1.12, Knights $6.75. There’s more money invested on a Brisbane big win (13+) than there is on all of the other options combined. The Broncos have been included in a stack of Sportsbet customers’ multi’s despite their prohibitive odds. Corey Oates is tipped to be the first try scorer, with the 21-year-old paying just $7 to get over the line first. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Assistant Referee. Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Russell Turner & Belinda Sleeman. Standby: Liam Kennedy. Review Officials: Jason Robinson & Ben Galea. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 7:30pm.
The way we see it: On paper this game looks like a very one-sided affair and we expect it to pan out that way. Brisbane hardly got out of second gear against the Dragons last week and still managed to win by 26. The Knights are a similar callable of opposition and although they will come out firing, expect Brisbane's class to get them home easily. Broncos by 18.