6:00 PM (AEST) Friday, May 4 at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Round 9 of the NRL continues on Friday night when the enthusiastic Newcastle Knights play hosts to a South Sydney side on the improve.
Newcastle: Kalyn Ponga; Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Sione Mata’utia, Nathan Ross, Ken Sio; Connor Watson, Jack Cogger; Herman Ese’ese, Slade Griffin, Daniel Saifiti, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Aidan Guerra, Mitchell Barnett. Luke Yates, Chris Heighington, Jamie Buhrer, Jacob Saifiti.
Souths: Alex Johnston; Campbell Graham, Greg Inglis, Dane Gagai, Robert Jennings; Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds; Thomas Burgess, Damien Cook, George Burgess, John Sutton, Angus Crichton, Cameron Murray. Adam Doueihi, Mark Nicholls, Jason Clark, Tevita Tatola.
A total of 40 games have been played between these two sides, with the Knights winning 25 matches to the Rabbitohs 15. Despite that, Souths have won all of the last 8 clashes, the last of which was a 24-18 win in Round 3 last year.
The Knights have finished dead last for three straight seasons prior to 2018 and despite some solid recruitment in the offseason, they were not expected to be a finals contender in 2018. They have though given the competition a major shake after scoring a brilliant golden point win in Round 1 against Manly. They followed it up with a stunning come-from-behind victory last week over Canberra. They suffered back to back losses against the star studded Roosters 38-8 and the undefeated Dragons 30-12, before bouncing back with a tough 15-10 win over the Broncos. The Knights were in the wrong place at the wrong time in Round 6 as the Storm belted them 40-14. They bounced back with an exciting come from behind win over the high flying Tigers 22-20, despite losing halfback Pearce early in the game to injury. They followed up with a gritty win against Manly last weekend by 18-12.
Souths have struggled to find any consistent form again this year. They were defensively poor in Round 1 at Perth as they went down 32-20 to the Warriors. They were dismal in attack the following week against Penrith, losing 18-14. They belted Manly in Round 3 with an impressive 34-6 victory. Souths held out the Bulldogs in Round 4 to score a scrappy 20-16 win. Souths went close to handing the undefeated Dragons their first loss, however went down 16-12. They bounced back with a brilliant 26-14 win over fierce rivals Sydney Roosters before belting the Raiders 42-22. Last week they went down narrowly to the Broncos 24-20.
Ponga v Johnston – The battle of the brilliant fullbacks. Ponga has become a brilliant attacking link for the Knights while Johnston has an amazing try scoring record.
Knights are really missing Pearce, which could become evident against a confident Souths side.