Written by Jon Kroiter
After winning their opening two games of the season for the first time since 2005, the Raiders will be aiming to add to that tally against the Knights.
The Green Machine will enter the match buoyed by their impressive comeback against the Rooster’s last week. After an error-strewn first half, the Raiders overcame injuries and Joey Leilua’s sin-binning to snatch a 21-20 win.
Sia Soliola admitted the side needed to be more clinical against the Knights than they were against the Roosters.
“We were pretty fortunate to come up with a win last week. We know it was a good effort by all the boys,” said Soliola.
“We can’t do that [make so many errors] week in and week out, it's just too hard. The game is hard enough and the comp is hard enough to do that to ourselves. We are not giving ourselves every chance to win.”
Like Soliola the season previously, Jeff Lima and Elliott Whitehead have both joined the Raiders from the Super League this season.
Lima has impressed in his first two games in Raiders colours and says the team have been working hard on defence in training this week.
“We’ve been worked really hard on our defense. We pride ourselves on our defense and we let a few tries in on the weekend so we worked on that,” Lima said.
Whitehead echoed Lima's statement, as he stressed the team needs to continue to focus on improvement.
“We just need to keep that consistency now. We don’t want to drop off. I think we’ve all got individual improvements to make that will help the team in the upcoming games,” Whitehead said.
The Knights are familiar opponents for the Raiders after the two sides played each other in a pre-season trial in February. The Raiders impressed in that outing, storming to a 34-6 lead at half time. Ricky Stuart used the second half of that game to give some younger players an opportunity as the Raiders held on for a 34-28 win.
Despite injury scares to both Shaun Fensom and Lachlan Croker, Ricky Stuart has made only the one change to the team that won against the Roosters. Joey Leilua drops out of the side due to suspension with Brenko Lee coming in for the former Knight’s centre. The cousin of winger Edrick Lee, Brenko will be playing his first NRL game of the season after making his Raiders debut last year.
CLICK HERE to see the Raiders NRL team.
Nathan Brown has named one change in the team that lost to the Rabbitohs with second rower David Bhana making way for Sione Matautia. Pauili Pauili is named on an extended bench with one player to make way before kickoff.
CLICK HERE to see the Newcastle Knights NRL team.
Jarrod Croker v Dane Gagai
After recovering from a virus, Jarrod Croker was impressive against the Roosters. Although he struggled with the boot throughout the match, he made no mistake when it mattered. After scoring a try in the corner, he slotted the sideline conversion to level the scores. The third highest point scorer in the NRL after the opening two rounds, Croker will be a threat to the Newcastle defense.
One of the most damaging players in the Knights backline, Dane Gagai will need to be at his best for the Knights. After a standout year last year, Queensland representative Gagai will hope to see plenty of the ball on Saturday.
Josh Papalii v Jacob Saifiti
Scoring two tries last week, it was no surprise that Papalii was named man of the match. His size and strength proved a handful for the Roosters last week and the Queensland representative will be aiming to threaten the Knights’ defense this week. With seven offloads already this season, Papalii’s ability to keep the ball alive is a huge asset for the Raiders.
Not to be confused with his twin brother Daniel, Jacob Saifiti is one of the young players Nathan Brown has promoted to first grade. Part of the Knights’ NYC team last season, Saifiti played well against the Rabbitohs, racking up 36 tackles and gaining 85 meters.
Jordan Rapana v Akuila Uate
Rapana made a mammoth 127 meters against the Roosters with some impressive link up play with Leilua. With Brenko Lee replacing the suspended Leilua, Rapana’s experience will be crucial down the Raider’s right side. If Rapana can form a good combination with Lee, it will lay a solid platform for the Green Machine.
Former NSW representative Uate will be looking to bounce back after a poor game against the Rabbitohs. With three missed tackles and only one successful tackle last week, the dangerous winger will have a point to prove in front of his home fans.
Record against the Knights
The Raiders have played the Knights on 43 occasions, winning 24 of those matches.
Raiders record at Hunter Stadium
Despite leading the head to head battle, the Raiders have only won seven times in twenty matches at Hunter Stadium. The Raiders have gone some way to amending that record in the last two seasons with consecutive victories in Newcastle.
Last three encounters
Raiders defeated Newcastle 36-22 at GIO Stadium Round 18 2015
Raiders defeated Newcastle 44-22 at Hunter Stadium Round 13 2015
Newcastle defeated Raiders 26-12 at GIO Stadium Round 6 2014
HE SAID IT
Shaun Fensom: "Everyone's hungry. Everyone wants to succeed here. We can't get carried away and we've spoken about that as a group and we're not getting carried away."
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Shaun Fensom.
Paul Vaughan: “We’re treating it as a dangerous game. We’re not taking them lightly, and they always perform up there. They’re a proud club. It’s going to be a tough one for us, and we’re definitely not taking it easy.”
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Paul Vaughan.
Josh Hodgson: "We are not going to get carried away. It's only round two. It's a minor step on where we want to get to."
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Josh Hodgson.
Kurt Baptiste: “It’s obviously good to get the two wins, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s only two games, there’s plenty more games to come."
CLICK HERE for the full interview with Kurt Baptiste.
CLICK HERE for five things we can't wait to see in round five!