The Raiders’ season was effectively ended by a narrow loss to the Penrith Panthers last week and they need to beat Newcastle to keep any remaining top eight hopes alive.
Even if they beat the Knights, then they still might see the finals aspirations fall away with other results and if not, then they will have to beat Minor Premiership winners Melbourne away from home in the final round.
Last season, the Raiders were one of the most fluent, fluid and exciting attacking sides in the competition and they went within a whisker of making the Grand Final. Unfortunately, the team has been disjointed and, occasionally, disinterested this year.
For the Knights, three wins on the bounce before last week’s crushing loss to the Storm gave them hope of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon. But the Tigers have also lifted so Newcastle will be keen to get the win and continue their recent ascendancy.
Despite their position in the ladder, Nathan Brown is building something positive and with a strong influx of recruits on the way, things are finally looking up for the Knights.
2017 – Rd 10 Newcastle Knights 34 def. Canberra Raiders 20 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2016 – Rd 17 Canberra Raiders 29 def. Newcastle Knights 25 at GIO Stadium
2016 – Rd 3 Newcastle Knights 24 drew Canberra Raiders 24 at McDonald Jones Stadium
2015 – Rd 18 Canberra Raiders 36 def. Newcastle Knights 22 at GIO Stadium
2015 – Rd 13 Canberra Raiders 44 def. Newcastle Knights 22 at McDonald Jones Stadium
The Knights count the Raiders as one of their few scalps of the season so far but Canberra have won three of the last five meetings. Canberra will be confident of picking up the win and improving their points differential along the way.
|Jack Wighton||1||1||Nathan Ross|
|Nick Cotric||2||2||Ken Sio|
|Jarrod Croker||3||3||Dane Gagai|
|Joseph Leilua||4||4||Peter Mata’utia|
|Jordan Rapana||5||5||Shaun Kenny-Dowall|
|Blake Austin||6||6||Jack Cogger|
|Aidan Sezer||7||7||Trent Hodkinson|
|Junior Paulo||8||8||Daniel Saifiti|
|Josh Hodgson||9||9||Danny Levi|
|Shannon Boyd||10||10||Josh King|
|Josh Papalii||11||11||Lachlan Fitzgibbon|
|Joseph Tapine||12||12||Jamie Buhrer|
|Elliott Whitehead||13||13||Mitchell Barnett|
|Kurt Baptiste||14||14||Joe Wardle|
|Clay Priest||15||15||Mickey Paea|
|Dave Taylor||16||16||Sam Stone|
|Luke Bateman||17||17||Jacob Saifiti|
|Jeff Lima||18||Brendan Elliot|
|Erin Clark||19||Pat Mata’utia|
|Royce Hunt||20||Jaelen Feeney|
|Michael Oldfield||21||Jack Stockwell|
The Facts That Matter
The Raiders are unchanged from their loss to Penrith last week and they’ll be heavily reliant on the try-scoring ability of their outside backs, particularly Jordan Rapana, Joseph Leilua and Nick Cotric, who all have the ability to find the line.
Coach Ricky Stuart will also want to see a return to form for Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer in the halves. The former has been a long way off the form he showed during the Raiders’ 2016 season and needs to show he isn’t a one-season wonder, with State of Origin places also up for grabs.
Canberra’s attack on the edges could work in their favour in the game, with Newcastle’s defence particularly weak in wide areas.
There will be an interesting battle through the middle-third as well with two sizeable packs going head-to-head.
The signs are positive for the Knights despite last week’s hammering against Melbourne and they will be up for the fight too.
That said, rugby league is a results business and the Knights will need to register more wins and make further progress next season to meet their targets and secure the job of coach Brown moving forward.
This week’s job is made all the more difficult by the loss of inspiring five-eighth Brock Lamb, who is replaced by youngster Jack Cogger alongside Trent Hodkinson in the halves.
Luke Yates has also been ruled out for the rest of the season due to an ankle injury.
In further changes, Jamie Buhrer moves to the second row as a replacement for the concussed Sione Mata’utia and Mickey Paea is added to the bench.
They are boosted by the return of fullback Nathan Ross after a spell on the sidelines.
Everything felt rosy for the Knights until last week. They’d beaten the Dragons, Warriors and the Eels in a tremendous three-week spell, which handed them the opportunity to leapfrog the Tigers and get off the last rung of the NRL ladder. Last week, that came crashing down after a heavy defeat to the Storm.
That may have taken the wind out of their sails so the Raiders should take the points in this one. Canberra by 12 points or under.
Can the Knights get back to winning ways, or will the Raiders keep their faint finals hopes alive? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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