Knights v Raiders: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders
McDonald Jones Stadium
Sunday, 2pm

The representative break probably came at a good time for both of these clubs after deeply disappointing Round 9 efforts.

The Knights will be hoping the likes of the Saifiti brothers (Fiji), Mata'utias (Samoa), Nathan Ross (City Origin) and Sam Stone (Junior Kangaroos) will be bringing a bounce in their step back from their respective weeks away on rep duty while the rest of the squad got a chance to rest some niggles.

They will be looking to bounce back from a diabolical second half in their big 38-8 loss on the Gold Coast a fortnight ago, in a game they were well and truly in for a long period before falling away badly.

On the teams front, coach Nathan Brown has named close to the same starting 17, though Luke Yates (lock) pushes Josh King back to the reserves. Halfback Trent Hodkinson is also in the reserves this week and may come into contention on game day.

The Raiders had a light load last weekend, with only prop Junior Paulo (Toa Samoa) facing off against clubmates Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead (England) on Saturday.

While their 16-10 away loss to the Dogs doesn't sound that bad on paper, the fact the injury-ravaged Dogs completely shut down a Raiders side that should have run away with it whilst the Green Machine failed to fire a shot in the second half is a massive cause for concern. 

Coach Ricky Stuart has called on Sio Soliola to start in the second row with Dunamis Lui to join the bench while Josh Papalii serves a one-game disciplinary suspension.

‌Why Knights can win: To say the Knights will need to improve on last week's second half is an understatement but the fact they led, away from home, at half-time is at least encouraging. Their young forward pack will need to match it with Canberra's representative-stacked pack during the early salvos but if they can do that they're a chance. It will be up to the likes of Daniel Saifiti (148 metres against Gold Coast, 145 metres and a try against Tonga), Sam Stone (tries in last two games) along with older heads like Josh Starling and Anthony Tupou to lift their teammates. 

Why Raiders can win: Surely Canberra are too good a side to put in a repeat effort of what they served up against Canterbury last week and Manly the week before. Their power-packed right edge went completely missing in those two games (while leaking plenty of tries) after looking like world-beaters for the month prior. The likes of Joey Leilua (eight missed tackles, two errors, 72 metres), Jordan Rapana (six misses, two errors, 54 metres) and Blake Austin (five missed tackles, no assists) will be stinging after what they dished up against the Dogs and out to remind everyone why they were considered the most threatening edge in the competition as recently as a month ago. 

 


The history: Played 45; Knights 18, Raiders 25; Drawn 2. In their past seven meetings the Knights only have one win over Canberra, plus a 90-minute draw last year. Canberra's recent record at McDonald Jones isn't bad either, with three wins from their past five visits to go with one loss and that draw. 

What are the odds: Six times the money has gone on Canberra according to Sportsbet and the Raiders have been included in a stack of multis over the round. Canberra 13+ is the most popular winning margin and 72 per cent of the bets are with the Green Machine at the line where they're conceding the points start. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger; Assistant Referee: Peter Gough; Touch judges: Dave Ryan and Adam Reid; Review Official: Steve Chiddy; Senior RO: Luke Patten.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live from 1.30pm. 

NRL.com predicts: We're not completely writing the Knights off but the Raiders should have too many points in them to go down here. Canberra by at least two converted tries.