Schick Hydro Preview: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights
It will be a "Winter Wonderland" theme at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon and it won't get much colder for the Knights if they're to fall to the Raiders.
A loss is the nation's capital will be the Knights' 10th straight defeat as they stare down the barrel of perhaps the worst season by a club in NRL history.
Since the NRL recommenced in Round 10 following Representative Round the Knights have conceded 38 points per game on average.
On the bright side, the Knights are unchanged for the first time in a long time. But they will face a Raiders side who have named the same 17 too – with only the minor changes of Paul Vaughan and Sia Soliola shifting back to the bench and Junior Paulo and Luke Bateman moving into the starting side.
A win for Canberra can only increase their chances of finishing in the top four as they look to make it five wins in six games.
Watch out Raiders: The Knights have a knack of scoring points against the Raiders. In a dozen games since the beginning of 2011, Newcastle have scored 20 or more points against Canberra on all but two occasions. In fact Canberra are the only NRL team the Knights have scored 1000 points against overall.
Watch out Knights: Turns out Canberra like piling on the points against Newcastle as well. Only the Broncos have scored more points against the Knights than the Raiders have. The Green Machine have been particularly strong in attack this season, scoring at least 30 points in four of their past five games and ranking second in the league for points scored in 2016.
Key match-up: Joe Tapine v Mitchell Barnett. At the start of the season, Tapine was a Knight and Barnett was a Raider – but this weekend the two young back-rowers line up for the opposite club after both making mid-season moves. Barnett has made a fist of his time in first grade so far, averaging 110.5 metres and 32 tackles a game since moving to Newcastle. Tapine in comparison hasn't set the world on fire in terms of stats but is displaying good enough form to keep Raiders stalwart Shaun Fensom out of first grade.
The history: Played 44; Raiders 24, Knights 18, Drawn 2. Their 24-all draw in Round 3 aside, the Raiders have dominated Newcastle in recent seasons. Prior to this year Canberra had won four of the past five games between the sides. Not only that, their average winning margin over this period has been by a whopping 18 points.
What are the odds: Canberra appear to be the lock of the weekend and they're going in most Sportsbet multis, however the massive price on offer for the Knights in a two-horse race has been too much to resist for punters, with as much as $7 offered. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Jared Maxwell. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Sideline Officials: Russell Turner and Nick Morel.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live Coverage from 1:35pm.
The way we see it: The Knights will fall to their 10th straight defeat on Sunday afternoon. The Raiders have come too far since their early-season draw to let this one slip. With a place in the top four on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder still very much a possibility, the Raiders should win this one and win it well. Raiders by 14 points.