NRL R6 Preview: Raiders v Knights
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights
3pm, Saturday, April 12
The Raiders and the Knights both sit outside the eight looking in and both are starting to get pretty desperate. Newcastle anchor the ladder while Canberra cannot find a modicum of consistency. Season 2014 is slipping away for both of these.
Ricky Stuart has made plenty of changes this week with Josh Papalii and Bill Tupou back from injury and Jarrad Kennedy and Shannon Boyd back from illness. Out go Jake Foster, Joel Edwards, Kyle O’Donnel and Sami Sauiluma. Newcastle are unchanged though played on Monday so could make some late shifts. Jarrod Mullen was close to a return last week and may be a late inclusion.
Canberra hold a 22-17-1 all-time edge against the Knights and have won the last two affairs, including a 26-20 win in Newcastle just four weeks ago. The Raiders have won five of the last seven at Canberra Stadium, including a 44-14 win last year. These two have a history of high scoring encounters with the last six and eight of the last nine tallying over 40 points. Raiders forward Dane Tilse is a former Newcastle players while Newcastle pivot Michael Dobson has spent time at the Raiders.
Canberra have probably performed better than anticipated but still possess just a 2-3 record and sit well outside the finals. The Raiders have wins against Newcastle and South Sydney on the road but have lost away to North Queensland and Penrith and at home to the Gold Coast. Canberra rank 8th in defence and 11th in attack. Newcastle rank second last in attack and 12th in defence and have managed just a solitary victory, a 30-0 win against last-placed Cronulla. Their four losses have come to the Raiders, Panthers, Cowboys and Storm.
The fullbacks in this clash hold the key to victory. Anthony Milford is really coming along for the Raiders and they need his individual brilliance to spark a fairly lacklustre backline. Milford has a ton of ability but needs to get busier. Darius Boyd has only recently returned from injury and has struggled majorly. His performance against the Cowboys was poor. The former Clive Churchill Medal winner needs to step up if Newcastle are any hope.
Stats That Matter
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is 17-53 in his last 70 games as a head coach. Canberra are terrible at home with a 19-19 (15-23 ATS) record including a 12-12 (8-16 ATS) record as a home favourite. When favoured by less than a converted try at home they are a poor 6-10 (5-11 ATS). In home day matches Canberra are 7-11 (6-12 ATS) since ’11 with the over 14-4. The Knights, by contrast, are an excellent day team with a 20-18 (23-15 ATS record) over the same time with a 13-9 cover record on the road in day matches. Overall the Knights are 9-16 (12-13 ATS) on the road under Wayne Bennett. Over the last three seasons teams on a 5-day turnaround (Newcastle) are 56-44 (60-40 ATS) but the Knights are a poor 1-4 straight and ATS with the under 4-1. Teams who scored six points or fewer are 40-20 ATS when playing at home but teams off a loss of 25 or more are 45-26 ATS.
2014 Line: Canberra 3-2, Newcastle 2-3
2014 Over-Under: Canberra 3-2, Newcastle 2-3
The instinct is very strong in this one to go against Canberra. The Raiders are shocking home favourites and there are plenty of numbers that stack up against them. It is hard to get excited about Newcastle at all though. They were appalling on Monday night and now back up five days later away from home after a trip to Townsville. Their edge defence is horrific, which is good news for the over bet in this one. Raiders day matches nearly always go over and the poor fringe defence of both teams has confidence levels high on an over in this clash.
The Way It’s Shaping
Canberra by 1
Over 40.5 Total Points ($1.90)