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Match Preview: Raiders v Knights

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The Newcastle Knights may be sitting in last place on the ladder with just one win this year, but that counts for nothing on Sunday when the Raiders travel up to the Hunter aiming to get one over their bogey side.

Twice in 2016 the valiant Knights defied the odds to take the Raiders to golden point, with one match ending in a draw and the Raiders just escaping on the other occasion through a freakish try.

Both teams will come into the match relatively fresh after a week off due to the representative round, with only five Raiders playing last weekend compared to eight Knights.  

The Raiders will be missing influential forward Josh Papalii for the match, with Sia Soliola moving into the backrow to cover for him and Dunamis Lui joining the interchange.

Trent Hodkinson is named as 18th man for the Knights and looms as a potential late inclusion for Jaelen Feeney.

After two tight losses to the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs, the Raiders desperately need to return to the winner’s circle, and an emphatic victory over the Knights will do just the trick.

Winning the match will require a much-improved performance from the Raiders massive forward pack, which was out-muscled up the middle by the Bulldogs. If the Raiders can gain an early upper-hand over the Knights youthful forward pack, it will go a long way to shaping the outcome of the match.

The Raiders and Knights have already met once this year in a trial match at Seiffert Oval. The visitors crushed an under-strength Raiders outfit by 44 points. While only a trial match, the result will give the Knights an extra shot of confidence heading into Sunday’s game.

Last Game

Raiders fan were treated to an enthralling encounter at GIO Stadium last time the two sides came together in round 17, 2016. Trailing by 22 points early on, Blake Austin scored just before half-time to put the Raiders on the board.

Eventually finding their rhythm, the Green Machine clawed their way back and sent the match into golden point. In the most unlikely of circumstances, Jordan Rapana collected a wayward field goal attempt by Austin to secure the two-points in a wild finish. 

Key Matchups

Nick Cotric v Nathan Ross

Although he is still finding his feet in first grade, the 18-year-old winger has enjoyed a sensational debut season so far. Despite a couple of narrow losses in recent weeks, the Valley Dragons junior has been threatening with the ball in hand, averaging five tackle breaks per match.

The Newcastle cult hero enters the match on the back of an impressive representative debut for City – albeit in the unfamiliar position of right centre. Although the Knights have had a difficult start to the season, Ross has still managed to find the try line on six occasions.

Joey Leilua v Dane Gagai

After spending a week with the Samoan national side, Leilua will attempt to prove his Origin credentials to NSW coach Laurie Daley when he faces up against incumbent Queensland Maroon, Dane Gagai. With six tries and three try assists, Leilua will be keen to display his attacking qualities after an inconsistent couple of weeks.

A leader in a young side, it’s easy to forget that Gagai is only 26 years of age. Although the Queensland representative has only scored one try this season, he showed his quality in the Origin arena last year scoring four tries across the series.

Elliott Whitehead v Sione Mata’utia

Whitehead enters the clash against the Knights in great form having picked up man of the match honours in England’s clash against Samoa. Averaging close to 30 tackles per match, Whitehead’s defensive game has been as impressive as his attacking game which has seen him score two tries this season.

Thrust into the role of captain in recent weeks, Sione Mata’utia has made a smooth transition to the second row over the last season. Having played three matches on the wing for Australia in 2014, the now 20-year-old is a threat in attack and has already set up two tries this year for the Knights.

Quote of the Week

"You never expect to beat a team easily or by a number of points but it always seems to be a close game with them."

- Luke Bateman discussing the Raiders recent record against the Knights.  

Head-to-Head

In their past seven meetings the Knights only have one win over Canberra, plus a 90-minute draw last year. Canberra's recent record at McDonald Jones isn't bad either, with three wins from their past five visits to go with one loss and that draw. 

Team Lists

As of Tuesday, May 9.

Canberra Raiders Newcastle Knights
1. Jack Wighton 1. Brendan Elliot
2. Nick Cotric 2. Ken Sio
3. Jarrod Croker (C) 3. Dane Gagai
4. Joey Leilua 4. Peter Mata'utia
5. Jordan Rapana 5. Nathan Ross
6. Blake Austin 6. Brock Lamb
7. Aidan Sezer 7. Jaelen Feeney
8. Junior Paulo 8. Daniel Saifiti
9. Josh Hodgson  9. Danny Levi
10. Shannon Boyd 10. Josh Starling
11. Sia Soliola 11. Sione Mata'utia (C)
12. Elliott Whitehead 12. Sam Stone
13. Luke Bateman 13. Luke Yates
Interchange Interchange
14. Adam Clydsdale 14. Anthony Tupou
15. Dunamis Lui 15. Joe Wardle
16. Clay Priest 16. Jack Stockwell
17. Joe Tapine 17. Jacob Saifiti
Reserves Reserves
18. Scott Sorensen 18. Trent Hodkinson
19. Jordan Turner 19. Tyler Randall
20. Dave Taylor 20. Josh King
21. Zac Santo 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon