Round 10: Dragons v Knights preview
Both Wollongong and Newcastle claim to be Australia's steel city, and the rivalry again fires up between the Dragons and the Knights - but this season the two travel to Mudgee in Central West NSW to battle it out.
The St George Illawarra Dragons were one of several NRL sides who started their season with two straight defeats, but managed to turn the ship around by putting four wins in a row together. It didn't last - they're now heading into Round 10 looking down the barrel of four successive defeats after losses to the Roosters, Eels and Warriors.
Last weekend at Magic Round the Red V started the game with a bang, taking an early 18-6 lead which they were able to hold to half time but struggled in the second half to match it with the Warriors, conceding 20 points after the break - having conceding 26 the week before against Parramatta.
They have been the 'thereabouts' team of the NRL in recent years, but despite fans calling for the head of Paul McGregor, the Dragons pushed into the second week of the finals last season, only to be narrowly defeated by Souths 13-12. This season, the Jack De Belin off-field scandal hit the club hard but still they were expected to perform better, and despite the four-game winning streak through April, their last few performances have been poor.
Newcastle have been undergoing a massive rebuild in recent seasons and the pitchforks were out for Nathan Brown after the Knights went one-and-five for the first six rounds, before pulling out a shock victory over Parramatta and now having added two more successive wins against the Warriors in New Zealand and in Magic Round against the Bulldogs. They have been very impressive in their three recent wins and their completion rate for all three games has been well above 80%.
The Novocastrians' have been expected to improve for many seasons with plenty of big-name signings more recently, but ultimately they have been disappointing, having only finished as high as eleventh in recent seasons. This year they have been boosted by the performances of David Klemmer who has been strong since joining from the Bulldogs at the start of the season.
Neither side has changes to its starting 17 from last week, although former Knights forward Korbin Sims is a listed reserve for the Dragons as he looks to return from a broken arm.
The Dragons have dominated the battles between the two sides with the Red ‘V' winning 27 of 38 clashes including their earlier clash this season which saw the Dragons win in Golden Point.
Who to watch: Halfback Ben Hunt has had to take a leading role in the Dragons attack following the injury to Gareth Widdop and now taking an even bigger role since Corey Norman suffered his cheek injury. Hunt this season has been fair but needs to step up his game with just five try assists of which they game in just two games in rounds 5 and 6.
A high profile recruit, Knights forward David Klemmer has copped criticism for his performances in a losing team, however the stats have shown Klemmer has been a bright spark for the Knights with Klemmer taking the most runs this season of any player this season and has chalked up the post contact metres of any player,
My tip: I'm going against the favourites and tipping the Knights, they've looked as if they've found the form that clicks and can keep them going this week. The Dragons need to find what works for them in spite of their injury toll, but I don't think they can put it all together this week in Mudgee. Knights by 6.