NRL match preview: Round 3

After a perfect start to the new season with two wins from two games, the nib Newcastle Knights head on the road again in Round 3

This week they take on the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium, a ground at which the red and blue haven’t defeated the Tricolors since 2009.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

 
Date: Sunday March 25
Gates: 4.15pm
Kick-off: 6.30pm
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Referee: Gerard Sutton
 
HEAD-TO-HEAD
 
Played: 50
Knights: 19
Roosters: 29
Draw: 2
 
TEAMS
 
Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 3. Sione Mata’utia, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Herman Ese’ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Jacob Lillyman, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Brock Lamb, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Jamie Buhrer, 17. Daniel Saifiti, 18. Ken Sio, 19. Jacob Saifiti, 20. Danny Levi, 21. Luke Yates.
 
Sydney
1. James Tedesco, 2. Reece Robinson, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 9. Jake Friend, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Isaac Liu. 14. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 15. Zane Tetevano, 16. Mitchell Aubusson, 17. Victor Radley, 18. Nat Butcher, 19. Kurt Baptiste, 20. Mitchell Cornish, 23. Frank-Paul Nuuausala.

SETTING THE PLATFORM


Despite the alarming penalty count last week, the Knights sit at the top of the NRL when it comes to number of completed sets heading into Round 3.

It’s this platform that has allowed the team to grab the points they need to win games, married with the 86 per cent completion rate from the side.

On the other hand, the Roosters are the fourth worst team in the competition so far when it comes to completed sets, with 52.

It’s an uncharacteristic statistic for the Sydney club, and sooner or later the team will improve its completion rate as new combinations firm.

The Knights will be aiming to keep the pattern going this Sunday though.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME


As widely publicised, five ex-Roosters will be returning to Allianz Stadium this weekend.

Mitchell Pearce, Aidan Guerra, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Connor Watson and Tautau Moga played a combined 670 games for the Roosters.

There’s been some banter between former teammates in the media this week, but come kick-off there’s no doubt that Pearce and company will be desperate to get a win over their old side.

Having inside knowledge always helps too, as Ben Hunt showed to dramatic effect against the Brisbane Broncos in Round 1 when he intercepted a pass that the year before he would have been orchestrating.

LONG RANGE POINTS


While the red and blues have scored the majority of their tries from plays that originated within 20 metres of the try line, the Roosters have been using a little more space for their four-pointers.

The Tricolors have scored six tries in total, with four of those coming from further out than 20 metres, and two starting from the other side of the halfway line.

That means the Knights need to be on their game defensively, as the likes of James Tedesco and Luke Keary will exploit any small gaps in the line whether it’s ten metres out from the try line or 90.

As coach Nathan Brown said after Round 2, “Offensively we’re not looking too bad, but we have a fair bit of work to do in defence.”

Players such as Aidan Guerra, Slade Griffin and Jacob Lillyman pride themselves on their defensive efforts, and will be demanding the team lifts in this regard in Round 3.