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Knights v Eels: Clifford to start in debut; Mahoney to play

Newcastle enjoyed a much-needed morale boost with their upset win over in-form Manly but will need to break a cycle that hasn't seen them win back-to-back since the first two rounds of 2021.

The 18-10 upset victory was just their third win at home this season so the Knights also can't take too much comfort from hosting the third-placed Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But the way Newcastle ground their way to victory, and subdued the brilliance of Tom Trbojevic, provided the blueprint for getting the better of a Parramatta attack that has lost some of its spark in recent weeks.

Origin, injury and judiciary concerns have taken a large bite out of the Knights pack so coach Adam O'Brien will be looking to captain Jayden Brailey and back-rower Mitch Barnett to step up.

The Eels are much less affected by State of Origin than the other top teams which could be a blessing in disguise. Captain Clint Gutherson and halfback Mitch Moses will be keen to atone for a disappointing past few weeks.  

The rundown

Team news

Knights: Jake Clifford will start at five-eighth in his club debut after having played for North Queensland last weekend.

Mat Croker and Jack Johns will make their NRL debuts off the interchange bench and Simi Sasagi is the 18th man. Connor Watson goes back to the bench and Jirah Momoisea was the last man omitted.

Phoenix Crossland and Gehamat Shibasaki were left out 24 hours before kick-off.

Veteran prop David Klemmer entered an early plea to his careless high tackle charge and will spend two weeks on the sideline.

Sauaso Sue replaces Klemmer in the front row while Jacob Saifiti takes over from twin brother Daniel as the other prop and Brodie Jones has received the nod to take Tyson Frizell's place in the second row.

The Knights have won four from six at McDonald Jones Stadium this season.

Eels: Parramatta will start 1-17 with Reed Mahoney to play at hooker after being released from the Maroons camp. Makahesi Makatoa will be 18th man.

Five-eighth Dylan Brown and prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard return from suspension, with Oregon Kaufusi going to the bench and Jakob Arthur sliding back to the reserves, while Marata Niukore replaces Blues bench forward Junior Paulo in the front row.

Haze Dunster has earned a recall for his first start of the season, and third appearance, in place of veteran winger Blake Ferguson who has been dropped.

Utility Will Smith (thumb) reclaims the No.14 jersey in his comeback from injury. 

Joey Lussick and Jakob Arthur dropped off the reserves list on Saturday.

Eels halfback Mitchell Moses requires six points for 800 points in the NRL.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Knights is number 1 Tex Hoy
    Fullback for Eels is number 1 Clinton Gutherson
  • Winger for Knights is number 2 Starford To'a
    Winger for Eels is number 2 Maika Sivo
  • Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Eels is number 3 Tom Opacic
  • Centre for Knights is number 4 Bradman Best
    Centre for Eels is number 4 Waqa Blake
  • Winger for Knights is number 5 Brayden Musgrove
    Winger for Eels is number 5 Haze Dunster
  • Five-Eighth for Knights is number 18 Jake Clifford
    Five-Eighth for Eels is number 6 Dylan Brown
  • Halfback for Knights is number 14 Kurt Mann
    Halfback for Eels is number 7 Mitchell Moses

Forwards

  • Prop for Knights is number 8 Sauaso Sue
    Prop for Eels is number 8 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
  • Hooker for Knights is number 9 Jayden Brailey
    Hooker for Eels is number 9 Reed Mahoney
  • Prop for Knights is number 10 Jacob Saifiti
    Prop for Eels is number 10 Marata Niukore
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Brodie Jones
    2nd Row for Eels is number 11 Isaiah Papali'i
  • 2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
    2nd Row for Eels is number 12 Ryan Matterson
  • Lock for Knights is number 13 Mitchell Barnett
    Lock for Eels is number 13 Nathan Brown

Interchange

  • Interchange for Knights is number 6 Connor Watson
    Interchange for Eels is number 14 Will Smith
  • Interchange for Knights is number 15 Josh King
    Interchange for Eels is number 15 Shaun Lane
  • Interchange for Knights is number 16 Jack Johns
    Interchange for Eels is number 16 Oregon Kaufusi
  • Interchange for Knights is number 20 Matt Croker
    Interchange for Eels is number 17 Bryce Cartwright

Reserves

  • Reserve for Knights is number 17 Simi Sasagi
    Reserve for Eels is number 19 Makahesi Makatoa

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Touch Judge: Peter Gough
  • Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
  • Senior Review Official: Chris Butler

Last updated:

Key match-up

Jake Clifford v Mitch Moses: Newcastle's newest signing may only make his club debut off the bench but his arrival is a huge boost for a team that has struggled for genuine playmaking options following injuries to Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga.

Clifford was excellent in his final game for the Cowboys last week and his kicking game will be particularly useful in a team that has relied heavily on promising youngster Phoenix Crossland of late.

The more experienced Moses has gone a little off the boil in recent weeks and will be looking to return to the form that has produced 10 try assists, three line-break assists and six drop-outs this season. He will also be keen to break his 2021 try-scoring drought. 

Stat attack

Perhaps even worse than the 56 points they conceded over the past two weeks is the fact that the Eels have allowed 20 line breaks. When opponents are averaging one line break every eight minutes, limiting the damage on the scoreboard is always going to prove difficult.

 

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