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The Newcastle Knights will be looking for back-to-back wins against competition heavyweights when they host the Parramatta Eels this afternoon in the Hunter. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary this afternoon from 4 pm (AEST).
While the Eels remain inside the top four for the time being, they look on shaky ground after consecutive defeats. The Knights meanwhile found some backbone last week to topple the ever-improving Sea Eagles and give their top eight hopes a boost heading into the State of Origin period.
The Knights forward stocks have taken a hit for this one. Daniel Saifiti has been selected for Origin, David Klemmer is out suspended and Tyson Frizell is out through injury. It is a big blow for a side that got home last week off the back of their pack and some renewed vigour and aggression. They are also still missing key men Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce.
The Eels on the other hand get a few back after a disappointing loss to the Rabbitohs last week. Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Dylan Brown return from suspension in the starting side while Blake Ferguson has been dropped after a poor showing last week, replaced by Haze Dunster. Will Smith returns on the bench and Oregon Kaufusi will start, replacing Junior Paulo who has been selected for New South Wales.
This game will double as old boys day for the Knights, and the 20-year anniversary of their grand final win over the Eels. They will be hoping to use that as motivation. The Knights hold a good record over the Eels, especially in Newcastle with a win percentage of nearly 67 per cent over the blue and gold. They have lost their last two against the Eels though, not beating them since the start of 2019.
This is set to be a key game for Mitchell Moses. He hasn’t been at his best since Dylan Brown has been out of the side, and needs to repay the faith shown to him by the Eels with a contract extension. Brown seems to have a good effect on Moses and they will be out to score some points early and build some confidence.
The Knights are set to inject Jake Clifford straight away after a switch from the Cowboys mid-season. The Knights have burned through some halves and halves combinations this year, through a swathe of injuries. They will be hoping they are onto a winner with Clifford and that he will be a good foil for Mitchell Pearce when he returns.
The Knights have struggled all year with injury, especially to key players and are doing well just to maintain touching distance of the eight. They were gutsy and a tad lucky beating the Sea Eagles last week, but the Eels in spite of their position on the ladder will be desperate. In contrast, they are all but full strength and have some key men returning.
The Knights’ losses in the pack make this an uphill struggle and while Jake Clifford will eventually get comfortable in the halves, expecting him to be the difference in his first outing is tough. They’ll put up a fight early but the Eels are due, and with all their spine members together again will atone for a lacklustre fortnight.
Eels by 14.
Join The Roar for live scores and commentary this afternoon from 4 pm (AEST).
Kick-off: 4:05pm (AEST)
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
TV: Fox League, Channel Nine (NSW/QLD/ACT/NT), 9Gem (VIC/WA/SA/TAS)
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go, 9Now
Odds: Eels $1.27, Knights $3.70 (odds via PlayUp)
1. Tex Hoy, 2. Starford To’a, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Brayden Musgrove, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Phoenix Crossland, 8. Sauaso Sue, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Brodie Jones, 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Mitch Barnett, 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Josh King, 16. Jack Johns, 17. Simi Sasagi
1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Tom Opacic, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Haze Dunster, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Marata Niukore, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown, 14. Will Smith, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Oregon Kaufusi, 17. Bryce Cartwright