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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Last start losers looking to bounce back in the nation's capital.
After opening their seasons with strong wins in round one, both the Raiders and Knights will be looking to put another tick in the win column on Friday night after suffering second up losses last weekend.
Intensity from the opening whistle will be the key focus from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart this week after his team were blown away by a rampant Melbourne Storm in the opening forty minutes last week. That match also dealt them a body blow with Joseph Tapine picking up a thumb injury that rules him out of the clash against the Knights.
Impressive English import John Bateman will move from the back of the scrum to fill Tapine's right edge back-row position with countryman Ryan Sutton named to start the game at lock after playing his first two NRL games from the bench. The vacancy on the bench will be filled by former Newcastle junior Hudson Young who will make his top grade debut.
There will be a real focus on capitalizing on created chances for the Knights this week after failing to put an exclamation mark on a number of opportunities in their opening two games. Whether it be dropping the ball before the line, failing to get it down over the line or decoys getting caught in the wrong position in the lead up, better execution could well have seen them sitting in a more dominant position.
Coach Nathan Brown named an unchanged 17 when teams dropped on Tuesday, however word coming out of the Hunter suggests fullback Connor Watson has been all but ruled out as he awaits scans from a knee injury he picked up against the Panthers.
Brown looks set to resist the opportunity to move Kalyn Ponga back to fullback, instead opting to use utility Kurt Mann to fill Watson's boots. The versatile Jamie Buhrer would be the likely new face on the interchange.
Last meeting: Round 2 2018 - Raiders 28 Knights 30
In a highly entertaining and see-sawing encounter early last year, it was then Knights centre Sione Mata'utia who came up with the match winning try inside the final ten minutes.
Who to watch: Joining Jarrod Croker as co-captain this season was a just reward for English rake Josh Hodgson who hit the ground running upon returning from an ACL injury late last year. Most players take nearly a full season to get back to their best following the same injury, but the fact Hodgson slotted straight back into his creative attacking ways was testament to his character. After opposite number Danny Levi was caught out defending his line last week, look for Hodgson to send plenty of traffic his way with his selective and deft passing game sure to be a feature in this contest.
After making a few errors bringing the ball out of his own half last week, boom centre Jesse Ramien will be looking to make amends when he lines up against Jarrod Croker and the Raiders left edge defence. There have been calls from many Knights supporters since Ramien first pulled on a red and blue jersey in a pre-season trial for the playmakers to get him more ball and on Friday night they could well get their wish. The Storm exposed the Raiders left edge defence a number of times in their opening half blitz last week making it an obvious target for the Knights to attack this week. If Pearce and Ponga can get their centre some quality early ball, the strong and aggressive running of Ramien will prove more than a handful on the Raiders fringes.
The favourite: The Raiders at $1.70 hold favouritism over the Knights at $2.15.
My tip: The Knights have been committed and tough over the full 80 minutes in the opening two weeks, but still displayed a couple of lapses defending their own line in key moments last week. Providing they start the game well, the Raiders have enough attack in them to get the job done in a tight match at home. Raiders by 4.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Joseph Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 18. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliot Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Hudson Young 16. Iosia Soliola 17. Corey Horsburgh
14. Kurt Mann 2. Edrick Lee 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Danny Levi 16. Mitchell Barnett 12. Sione Mata'utia 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Tim Glasby 10. James Gavet 15. Aidan Guerra 18. Josh King 20. Jamie Buhrer
Referees: Jon Stone, Tim Roby; Sideline Officials: Liam Nicholls, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;