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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Raiders round 4 preview: Sunday Knights showdown

Canberra Raiders (2nd) vs Newcastle Knights (3rd) Sunday 7 June 4.05pm @Campbelltown Stadium

The Canberra Raiders will play their first game at their temporary ‘home’ ground at Campbelltown Stadium in Western Sydney on Sunday 7 June against the Newcastle Knights in a top-four clash.

Both sides will be looking to remain undefeated following impressive round 3 performances with the Raiders winning 22-6 in Melbourne, while an undermanned Knights side clawed their way back for a 14-14 draw against the Penrith Panthers.

The Raiders looked comfortable in their first match in over two months with new halfback George Williams playing a starring role.

The quicker play the balls and new six-again rule seemed to suit Williams and Josh Hodgson’s game style with more space allowing them to open up the Storms defence numerous times.

With a target now firmly on his back, the test will now be for Williams to play at a high level week in  week out in the NRL.

The Raiders have been boosted by the inclusion of Bailey Simonsson on the wing, pushing Jordan Rapana to the bench and Michael Oldfield out of the 17.

The Knights were also outstanding last Sunday evening salvaging a draw after losing Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson early.

The performance was enough for old boy Matty Johns to call the coach Adam O’Brien and tell him it was the best performance he’s seen from a Knights side in many years.

O’Brien spent time under Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson and it’s clear to see the impact they’ve had on his coaching style with the Knights defence looking rock solid against the Panthers.

The only issue may be just how much that effort took out of his players with many looking gassed after the 90 minutes, but after two months off they should still have plenty left in the tank this weekend.

In two huge boosts for the Knights, Pearce has been passed fit after a nasty concussion last week and star full back Kalyn Ponga returns from suspension.

Key matchups

George Williams vs Mitchell Pearce

The battle of the two number 7s shapes as a crucial one for these sides. Pearce is the general for the Knights and their win record is far improved when he’s playing, while Williams showed his best can match it with any halfback in the game today.

Josh Papalli vs David Klemmer

Two of the toughest and most influential front rowers go head to head on Sunday and it promises to be brutal. Klemmer ran for 252 metres last week while Papalii ran for 166 in his 200th game. Both packs rely heavily on their leaders to get them moving forward so this matchup is pivotal.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad vs Kalyn Ponga

Unfortunately for the Raiders, Ponga will be fresh for this match and slots straight back into fullback pushing Tex Hoy to the bench. He’s a star, Ponga. His footwork is second to none and the Raiders will need their kicking and kick-chase on point to make it difficult for him returning the ball. Nicoll-Klokstad continues to prove he’s the best bargain buy of last season. Rarely makes a mistake under the high ball and is always hunting through the middle looking for a chance, evidenced by his try last week.

If the Raiders are to win this, they’ll need to bring the same strong team defence they had last week and the attack should take care of itself.

Full teams

1Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad1Kalyn Ponga
2Bailey Simonsson2Edrick Lee
3Jarrod Croker3Enari Tuala
4Curtis Scott4Bradman Best
5Nick Cotric5Hymel Hunt
6Jack Wighton6Kurt Mann
7George Williams7Mitchell Pearce
8Josh Papalii8David Klemmer
9Josh Hodgson9Andrew McCullough
10Dunamis Lui10Daniel Saifiti
11Joseph Tapine11Aidan Guerra
12Elliott Whitehead12Sione Mata’utia
13Corey Horsburgh13Herman Ese’ese
14Siliva Havili14Tex Hoy
15Emre Guler15Jacob Saifiti
16Iosia Soliola16Tim Glasby
17Jordan Rapana17Brodie Jones
18Tom Starling18Gehamat Shibasaki
19Matt Frawley19Chris Randall
20Kai O’Donnell20Mason Lino
21Michael Oldfield21Pasami Saulo

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