Competition - NRL. Round - Round 6. Teams - Newcastle Knights v Canterbury Bulldogs. Date - 7th of April 2017. Venue - McDonald Jones Stadium

NRL match preview: Round 7

With another game going down to the wire in Round 6, the nib Newcastle Knights will be desperate to get a win in front of home fans before a month-long hiatus from McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Sydney Roosters have started the season strongly, with four wins to sit in fourth spot on the ladder.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Date: Friday April 14
Gates open: 3.30pm
Kick-off: 6pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium

HEAD-TO-HEAD
Played: 35
Knights: 12
Roosters: 23

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. Jack Stockwell, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Jamie Buhrer, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Sam Stone, 15. Anthony Tupou, 16. Joe Wardle, 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Jaelen Feeney, 19. Luke Yates, 20. Jacob Gagan, 21. Jacob Saifiti.

Sydney
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Joseph Manu, 4. Blake Ferguson, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Issac Liu, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Mitchell Aubusson, 13. Aidan Guerra. Interchange: 14. Kane Evans, 15. Zane Tetevano, 16. Ryan Matterson, 17. Connor Watson, 18. Paul Carter, 19. Lindsay Collins, 22. Jayden Nikorima, 23. Siosiua Taukeiaho.

TALKING POINTS

Gagai untouchable

Dane Gagai had one of his best games in the red and blue last weekend, breaking out of eight tackles and running 176 metres to be named Players’ Player.

Gagai’s opposite number this year for the Roosters has been Latrell Mitchell, although he was omitted from the team named this week.

He’s been replaced by the 20-year-old Joseph Manu, who has five NRL games under his belt.

“Obviously we can’t expect Dane to do that every week, but if we can keep giving him the right opportunities, we would hope he is going to create chances to win us games,” Nathan Brown said of Gagai’s Round 6 performance.

“The players inside him helped contribute to that.”

Gagai will no doubt be eager to back up his strong performance against an inexperienced centre this week.

New-look Roosters pairing

The new combination of Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce has hit the ground running for the Roosters this season, with Keary racking up seven try-assists and Pearce three.

In reality Knights halves Trent Hodkinson and Brock Lamb haven’t had much more time together, with the pair having played a grand total of two games together before this season.

Lamb has  five try-assists in 2017, while Hodkinson has two.

“Brock’s having some really good parts of his game for us and he’s having other parts which in time will get better and won’t happen as much,” Brown said of the young five-eighth.

The Roosters duo, meanwhile, has a combined total of 289 first grade games of experience.

It goes without saying that whichever halves pairing performs better on the day is very likely to see their team get the win.

One for the road

After the match this Friday, the red and blues will be jetting up to Townsville to take on the North Queensland Cowboys.

The following weekend will see the Knights play on the Gold Coast, before the Representative Bye takes place the week after.

It won’t be until midway through May that the Knights play on their Sacred Ground again, making an extra reason to attend the clash this Good Friday.

“We are showing that we’re going to fight to the death and now we’ve just got to start winning,” winger Nathan Ross said on Tuesday.

“You can finish work at 5.30 and come watch the Knights win at six, so it’s a good way to start the weekend.”

THE FINAL SAY

“Once they get a roll on they’re going to be hard to stop so we’ve got to bring the defence that we had against the Cronulla Sharks and really dig deep,” Ross said of the Roosters.

“I feel if we can control the ruck, that should put us in a good position to come away with the two points.”