Schick Hydro Preview: Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
McDonald Jones Stadium
The Dragons will look to move one step closer to locking up a spot in the finals when they travel to Newcastle to take on the Knights.
Last week's 52-22 thrashing of the Sea Eagles breathed new life into the Red V's season with Paul McGregor's men rediscovering their mojo in attack in what was their best performance of 2017.
Having taken care of Trent Barrett's Sea Eagles last week, they'll be hoping they can keep that momentum going against another former club legend in Nathan Brown.
The Knights were once again gallant in defeat but simply couldn't match it with the Roosters who skipped away late with three tries in the final 20 minutes.
Nathan Brown has been forced to make one change to the side that went down to the Tricolours with Ken Sio coming in for Chanel Mata'utia who continues to recover from concussion.
The Dragons have reshuffled their backline with Josh Dugan replacing Euan Aitken (shoulder) at right centre which sees Matt Dufty retain the No.1 jersey after a scintillating debut. Joel Thompson returns after he was a late scratching last week.
Why the Knights can win: The Knights might be on an eight-game losing streak but they have could have – and probably should have – won at least three of those. The defeat that stands out is their second-half capitulation against the Dragons in Round 16 that saw them surrender a 28-10 half-time lead to eventually go down by four points. It's easy to focus on the negatives after a loss like that but if the Knights can replicate their opening 40 minutes from that afternoon, they should head into Saturday's clash with plenty of enthusiasm. Nathan Ross tore the defence to shreds with a first-half hat-trick while Newcastle's up-tempo style caused all sorts of problems for the Dragons' middle men. Their biggest challenge will be to keep it up for both halves.
Why the Dragons can win: They did it as underdogs last week and the Dragons will be looking for a repeat performance against the cellar-dwellers in a game that could go a long way to deciding their finals fate. Paul McGregor's side claimed a crucial win against top-four fancies the Sea Eagles to keep the ninth-placed Panthers at bay and they now enter a three-game stretch that could solidify their spot in the top eight. The Red V face the Knights, Rabbitohs and Titans – teams that are all in the bottom six – and if they can exploit the soft draw then they'll find themselves on 30 competition points. One more win from their final three games would most likely be enough for them to secure a finals berth and that should be incentive enough this weekend.
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Tackles, All Run Metres, Tackle Breaks, Offloads.
The history: Played 33; Knights 10; Dragons 23. This is a match up the Dragons look forward to each year. The Red V have won nine of their past 10 matches against the Knights – including the last five – and lost just once in their previous 12 trips to Newcastle.
What are the odds: Not even the big price available for the Knights has convinced Sportsbet punters to back them. The money is running five-to-one in favour of the Dragons and St George Illawarra 13-plus is the overwhelming favourite in winning margin. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Sideline officials: Rickey MacFarlane and Clayton Sharpe.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 3pm.
NRL.com predicts: Home ground advantage usually helps the Knights, but as we know, this is a trip that tends to bring out the best in St George Illawarra. Look to them to build on last week's performance with another hefty win. Dragons by 20.