NRL match preview: Round 9

Almost a month after the Club's last home game, the nib Newcastle Knights are finally playing at home again this Friday night.

Following a massive win over the Manly Sea Eagles that saw the team snap a 12-year losing streak at Brookvale, the Knights now take on a potent South Sydney Rabbitohs side.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

Date: Friday May 4
Gates: 4.30pm
Kick-off: 6pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Referee: Gavin Badger

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played: 40
Knights: 25
Rabbitohs: 15

TEAMS

Newcastle
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Sione Mata'utia, 4. Nathan Ross, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Herman Ese'ese, 9. Slade Griffin, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer, 15. Chris Heighington, 16. Luke Yates, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Cory Denniss, 19. Jacob Lillyman, 20. Danny Levi, 21. Josh King.

Souths
1. Alex Johnston, 2. Richie Kennar, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Robert Jennings, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Thomas Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. George Burgess, 11. John Sutton, 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Adam Doueihi, 15. Mark Nicholls, 16. Jason Clark, 17. Tevita Tatola, 18. Robbie Farah, 19. Hymel Hunt, 20. Braidon Burns, 21. Kyle Turner.

HOME GROUND SUPPORT


It's been a long time since the team last heard the roar of red and blue support at McDonald Jones Stadium, and in fact the Knights have played just two home games from eight fixtures so far in 2018.

The team has fared much better on the road than in the past few seasons, but at home their win rate sits at 100 per cent.

Against Manly and Brisbane the crowd played a big part in pushing the team to the finish line, and another big attendance is expected this Friday night.

"I can't wait to play here again in front of a home crowd, we have only done it twice and had two really good wins so we're expecting a big crowd," Chris Heighington said in the build up.

GAGAI RETURNS


Following six years and 128 games at the Knights, fantastic Club servant Dane Gagai moved on at the conclusion of last season.

In Round 9 he returns with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, set to play in his favoured position in the centres.


Gagai has had a mixed start to life at Souths, not yet scoring any tries but setting up four in his eight appearances.

His tackling accuracy has not been particularly strong at 79 per cent, and will be facing an always competitive Nathan Ross.

It will be an enthralling battle between two former teammates.

DIFFERING STYLES


The Knights and the Rabbitohs travel into this game with somewhat different approaches to the game, with Souths trading in their traditional approach of simply battering through the middle for a more entertaining style.

They lead the competition in run metres, line breaks and decoy runs, and rank third for tries scored.

The Knights have taken on a more conservative approach so far in 2018, focusing on set completions to then turn on the attacking flair closer to the try line.

The red and blues rank second in the NRL for set completion, and fifth for kick metres.

Every time the Knights have completed at over 82 per cent this season, they have won.

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