NRL match preview: Round 3

The Knights finally have that winning feeling again after a hard-fought victory over the Gold Coast Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium last Saturday.

Now the red and blues prepare for their next big challenge against a South Sydney Rabbitohs side that impressed in their win against the Manly Sea Eagles last weekend.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Date: Saturday March 18
Gates open: 12pm
Kick-off: 4.30pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 39
Knights: 25
Titans: 14

SQUADS

Newcastle

1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Luke Yates, 15. Jack Stockwell, 16. Sam Stone, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Jacob Gagan, 19. Joe Wardle, 20. Josh King, 21. Anthony Tupou.

South Sydney

1. Alex Johnston, 2. Braidon Burns, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Robert Jennings, 5. Bryson Goodwin, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Zane Musgrove, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Jason Clark, 11. John Sutton, 12. Kyle Turner, 13. Sam Burgess. Interchange: 14. Damian Cook, 15. Angus Crichton, 16. Robbie Rochow, 17. George Burgess, 18. Siosifa Talakai, 19. Anthony Cherrington, 20. Cameron Murray, 21 Thomas Burgess.

TALKING POINTS

Battle of the giants

Both sides this weekend will be running out with plenty of muscle up front, with the Knights boasting the second heaviest set of starting props in the NRL.

Added to that is the tough back row of Mitch Barnett, Jamie Buhrer and Sione Mata’utia, who have all impressed in the opening rounds of the season.

The Rabbitohs are no slouches themselves in the size department, with Sam Burgess (116kg) and Zane Musgrove (110kg) starting.

But the Knights will hold the size advantage against a Rabbitohs side that is known for its strength through the middle.

“It is going to be a challenge not only for myself but for our pack,” bench forward Jacob Saifiti told Knights TV on Tuesday.

“We’ll have to muscle up in the middle and do our job and lay the platform for the backs.”

Grinding through sets

With it looking quite possible that there’ll be some rain on Saturday afternoon, completing sets will be a priority for both sides.

The Knights struggled to do this against the Warriors in Round 1, although impressed with an 85 per cent completion rate against the Titans in Round 2.

Meanwhile the Rabbitohs lead the competition in 2017 with an overall completion rate of 86 per cent.

A low error count will go a long way towards securing a second win in two weeks for the red and blues.

“We need to make sure we play for the full 80 minutes and turn up with a positive attitude and give everything we’ve got,” centre Dane Gagai told Knights TV on Tuesday.

Nathan Ross in the spotlight

It’s been a sensational start to the 2017 season for Nathan Ross, who has scored four tries in two games.

He’s built an impressive partnership with centre Pete Mata’utia during the pre-season, and also ranks 12th in the whole competition for metres made with an average of 162 per match.

While the fan favourite is flying high at the moment, he says he can’t take too much credit for the points he scores.

“It’s good to be on the end of those things but I can’t take too much credit for it, it’s a team sport and I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time,” he said in the sheds after the Round 2 win.

“When we stick to our principles, we score points and do well, so we’ve just got to stay at that level of consistency for the whole 80 minutes.”

Ross has scored one try in the two matches that he’s played against the Rabbitohs, and will no doubt be eager to add to that tally this weekend.

Team urges a big turnout

The atmosphere was electric at McDonald Jones Stadium last weekend, as the crowd spurred the side on to a memorable win.

“We wanted to honour the fans and work hard for each other and make sure we got the two points,” Gagai told Knights TV.

“We’d like to continue that this week.”

12,869 fans showed up for the Club’s first home match of 2017, and Pete Mata’utia said it felt like there was plenty more than that.

“Last weekend it felt and sounded like there were 30,000 people there, so I can’t wait to get back out there this Saturday,” he explained.

You can buy your tickets for this Saturday’s game HERE.

THE FINAL SAY

“Winning in the NRL is hard to do week in, and week out,” coach Nathan Brown said on Monday.

“It is great that we’ve started really well, but we could have worked a little bit smarter or harder in some key areas. We’re a developing team.”