The Knights are starting to get on a roll now Kalyn Ponga has returned to fullback and a solid win over Canterbury will have them full of confidence as they head to Mudgee to take on St George Illawarra.
It's not a great time for the Dragons to draw the Knights after a demoralising loss to the Warriors last week. It was a game they had full control of in the first 20 minutes and looked set to cruise to victory but they faded as the minutes ticked by and lost it in the final stages.
Newcastle would almost consider Mudgee home territory heading due west from the Hunter and they'll be walking tall now they've turned a run of losses into three wins in a row.
Match: Dragons v Knights
Round 10 -
Venue: Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
Dragons: A late change for Paul McGregor with Josh Kerr knocking off Jeremy Latimore on the bench. Mitchell Allgood was also dropped an hour before kick-off. Korbin Sims' comeback from a broken arm has been delayed by at least a week after he was dropped from the reserves on Saturday along with Jonus Pearson. The Dragons have lost their past three games.
Knights: Nathan Brown has made a late change to his squad with Kurt Mann elevated to start at five-eighth, relegating Connor Watson to the bench. Jamie Buhrer and Pasami Saulo were cut from the reserves on Saturday with Josh King and Mason Lino omitted an hour before kick-off. Three wins on the trot has given Brown the luxury of some stability and he has named the same 17 which took care of the Bulldogs in the Magic Round on the back of Ponga and Pearce's brilliance. The last time the Knights won four in a row was the opening four rounds of 2015.
Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew DuftyFullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan PereiraWinger for Knights is number 2 Edrick Lee
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Zac LomaxCentre for Knights is number 3 Hymel Hunt
Centre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo LafaiCentre for Knights is number 4 Jesse Ramien
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele RavalawaWinger for Knights is number 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Jai FieldFive-Eighth for Knights is number 14 Kurt Mann
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben HuntHalfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce
Prop for Dragons is number 8 James GrahamProp for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnesHooker for Knights is number 9 Danny Levi
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanProp for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Mitchell Barnett
Lock for Dragons is number 13 Blake LawrieLock for Knights is number 13 Tim Glasby
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Euan AitkenInterchange for Knights is number 6 Connor Watson
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Jacob HostInterchange for Knights is number 15 Herman Ese'ese
Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Luciano LeiluaInterchange for Knights is number 16 James Gavet
Interchange for Dragons is number 20 Josh KerrInterchange for Knights is number 17 Sione Mata'utia
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Referee: Liam Kennedy
- Touch Judge: Rickey MacFarlane
- Touch Judge: Mark Bohan
- Video Referee: Ben Galea
- Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell
The halfbacks have a lot to play for. The form of Nathan Cleary and James Maloney means Brad Fittler will be watching his other options closely and another big game from Mitchell Pearce could give him another shot at a Blues jersey. Ben Hunt had a moment to forget last week when he fumbled a crucial dropout that gave the Warriors the chance to go down-field and score. He'll want to redeem himself with Origin selection around the corner.
For the Dragons to win
Tighten up the middle. The Warriors had a lot of success in that area of the field, a number of breaks being made there leaving the Dragons' defence scrambling. Pearce and Ponga can easily exploit that kind of weakness. They'll want to push the Knights to the edges with them possibly without Connor Watson and Edrick Lee after injuries last week.
For the Knights to win
Keep doing what they're doing. Three wins in a row means something is working and it's about continuing to build on those combinations as the top eight comes within striking distance.
Brett Kimmorley says
How good is taking the game to regional areas? There should be a large crowd in Mudgee for this one. The Dragons need to get back to their winning ways, as without Corey Norman they've come back to the middle of the field. Newcastle have a big chance to cause an upset. Ponga, Pearce and Klemmer have been great for the Knights. They've changed their style, they've found some confidence, and big players can usually return to form pretty quickly and that's what the Knights are getting from those three stars. I like what they're offering up at the moment. Knights by 4.
Kalyn Ponga sealed the win last week with a solo effort try, but don't discount the work he does in setting others up. He finished with two line-break assists and a try assist (as well as 116 run metres) in their win over the Bulldogs.
And another thing ...
Glen Willow Oval in Mudgee has hosted four games since 2012 (two City-Country, two NRL). It has been near-capacity (10,000) every time and is the second year in a row the Dragons have taken a game there, last year defeating Canberra 25-18.