NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v CANBERRA RAIDERS
Round 13, 2015 NRL Premiership
Date: Saturday June 6, 3pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins
Last time they met:
The Knights trounced the Raiders 26-12 at GIO Stadium in Round 6 last year, with Adam Clydsdale scoring his first try for the Club.
These two sides have played each other 41 times with the Knights winning 18 of those encounters. But of the 19 games played at Hunter Stadium, the Knights have won an impressive 13.
1. Dane Gagai, 2. James McManus, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Carlos Tuimavave, 7. Kurt Gidley (c), 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. David Fa'alogo, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Jack Stockwell. Bench: 14. Tyler Randell, 15. Chris Houston, 16. Korbin Sims, 17. Sam Mataora.
1. Jack Wighton, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Sisa Waqa, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Paul Vaughan, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. David Shillington, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Iosia Soliola, 13. Shaun Fensom, Bench: 14. Kurt Baptiste, 15. Jarrad Kennedy, 16. Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 17. Shannon Boyd.
The Knights put in a good shift against the Warriors in Auckland last Sunday, but were left empty-handed with a small number of errors proving very costly.
It will be those errors the men in red and blue will need to minimise at Hunter Stadium this Saturday when they host the Canberra Raiders.
“It’s assumed that you give effort every week… every NRL team is required to do that,” Director of Football Michael Hagan said.
“I guess you need to be a bit smarter with the effort you give, and that’s the challenge for our team.
“A couple of the defensive lapses have really hurt us over the last couple of weeks, so that’s something we’ll need to overcome.”
The Knights’ line-up continues to be ravaged by injuries, with Tyrone Roberts succumbing to an syndesmosis ankle injury last weekend.
However, the return of Kade Snowden and Kurt Gidley will be a giant boost, with both players bringing plenty of experience to the table.
Carlos Tuimavave put in a solid effort at five-eighth on his Club debut last week, and will be buoyed with Kurt Gidley returning to help him out.
“For Carlos and Kurt, they haven’t played in the halves together before, so I guess it’s a short week for them to build that combination,” Hagan admits.
“I thought Tyler and Carlos did well last week jumping in there at short notice but we need to work on the kicking game.”
The Raiders aren’t particularly renowned for their kicking game, but five-eighth Blake Austin has been outstanding so far this season with seven tries in 12 appearances.
If the Knights want to dictate the tempo of the game, Gidley and Tuimavave will have to gel quickly.
The Raiders also have a strong forward pack, with the likes of Josh Papalii, Iosia Soliola and Shaun Fensom.
The Knights are still a little short up front with Jeremy Smith and Robbie Rochow out, but Hagan believes that the form of other forwards has been solid.
“Beau Scott did a really good job last week backing up from Origin and Tariq Sims has been one of our more consistent players as well,” he says.
“We also need those young players like Jack Stockwell, Korbin Sims and Tyler Randell to work on being consistent.
“They’ve been great in the most part, but they will need to be at their best on Saturday, understanding that Raiders will be coming here near full strength.”
If the Green Machine do have one weakness at the moment it is their performance in the first 20 minutes of games.
In their last four matches they have conceded 50 points in the first quarter, while the Knights have conceded only 28 in the same period of time.
That isn’t something that the Knights’ coaching team will be analysing too closely though.
“I don’t think we really look at that,” Hagan smiles.
“That’s something that the Raiders will be looking at to try and repair, and we just need to have a real focus on our defence and our plan.”
If the Knights do want to pick up some points early on though, the back line will have to be firing from the first whistle.
“I think Dane Gagai has been getting better at fullback each week, Sione Mata’utia was good again at the weekend and Akuila Uate carried the ball strongly,” Hagan says.
“That’s one of our real strengths at the moment, our back five.”
The Raiders have backline weapons of their own though, with Fijian Sisa Waqa foremost amongst them.
“Sisa is a quality player, I think Melbourne will be disappointed that they lost him, and he’s got the capability to play in the centres as he can find a pass and knows how to run into space," Hagan added.
Where it will be won
In the forward pack.
“If you look at their forward pack with their starting front rowers and their bench, that’s a real strength of theirs,” Hagan says.
“We need to match them up front and from the bench.”
“It will be weird playing against the boys, but I think it will be fun,” former Raider Sam Mataora said in an interview on Wednesday.