Match Previews

As well as providing his best value bets every week, our NRL guru Steve Green also previews every NRL game for members. Here’s Steve’s thoughts for every Knights game.

To get Steve’s previews plus his best bets each week, join NRL Tips now!

NRL Round 16: Knights v Cowboys

The Knights look so much better at Ponga at 1, and when you throw in the recent return of Pearce from injury and the addition of Clifford, and perhaps you can see why I still have faith in this Knights line up.

I really like that Young has kept his spot on the wing, and with Hunt back on the other wing, the Knights have two wingers that provide very good go-forward and that are capable of finishing their chances.

The bench of Watson, Klemmer, King and Jones is strong and mobile, and at home, I like their chances here.

The Cowboys look decent enough, but guys like J Bowen, Hess and McLean will be targeted by the Knights attacking strike weapons.

Despite a promising run of form from Round 5 to Round 12, the Cowboys have slipped in recent weeks. While they nearly staged a miracle comeback against the Sharks, they were down 26-12 against the Sharks in Townsville, after being thrashed a week earlier against Manly.

There are no more excuses for this Knights outfit. Coach O’Brien has urged patience, but with his team, they should be competitive in all their remaining games in 2021.

D Saf is backing up from Origin, the Cowboys three player contingent is likely to be.

I think Ponga, Pearce and Brailey will all combine to help the Knights to a convincing win in this one.

Predicted score Knights 26 – Cowboys 14

NRL Round 15: Knights v Warriors

The Knights cannot take a trick in 2021. Just as they welcome back Klemmer from suspension and Pearce and Hunt from injury, they lose Best for an extended period and have Ponga’s return delayed again!

When you throw in the injury Frizzel suffered against Manly a couple of weeks ago, the Knights head into this missing their best player (Ponga), their key outside back (Best) and probably their form forward in 2021 (Friz).

With Clifford still finding his feet and Pearce returning from a long lay-off, I think they are going to have to play great to get the win here. The form of Tex Hoy at 1 has not been great, with his speed and strength well below what you see from fullbacks at other NRL clubs.

As for the Warriors, this is a strong looking team – with Walsh at the back, RTS on the wing, Fonua-Blake joining an already strong forward pack.

While the loss of Egan and Harris-Tavita may be perceived to be big losses (i.e. starting 7 and 9), Egan is not a terrific player and I do not think the Warriors lose much there. While Harris-Tavita has struggled at 7 in attack and I do not mind Sullivan as a replacement, so the Warriors are now deserved favourites in this one.

At home, and with Pearce back, I am expecting the Knights to play a very structured game that relies on solid defence and a good long kicking game.

But with the attacking brilliance of Walsh, Nikorima and RTS, I think the Warriors will have too many attacking threats for the Knights.

Predicted score Warriors 20 – Knights 18

NRL Round 14: Souths v Knights

With Arrow and Gagai already not named, and Murray all but certain not to play due to the head knock he suffered in Origin 1, all eyes will be on Latrell, Cook and Su’A to see if they back up for Souths.

Latrell looked like he came through unscathed and while Cook did a mountain of work early, he is also likely to play. Su’A had been in and out of first grade in recent weeks, so there is a big chance Bennett rests the backrower.

With all of those outs, you would think the Knights are a chance to cover the line here, but their form against the Eels last weekend was very concerning. While I still believe a resurgence is coming, I do not think it will be this weekend.

D Saf is the only player likely to boost their squad and while his likely inclusion will help with their go forward, the absence of Pearce, Ponga, Hunt, Klemmer and Frizell is too much to overcome this weekend.

I do like that Mann has finally moved from 6 to the centres, and Tuala has been shifted to the wing in place of the injured To’a, but there are still too many weaknesses in this Knights team.

There is a chance Dom Young is a late inclusion, though I think Coach O’Brien will likely give him another 80 minutes in reserve grade to boost his fitness before potentially giving him a go in Round 15 when the Knights look set to welcome back a host of talent.

With a spine likely to feature Cook, Reynolds, Walker and Latrell, Souths should be too good here. But I do think that Murray is a big out and this could open the door for a desperate Knights forward pack to hold their own.

On my ratings, the Knights are a good chance of covering the big line on offer, however off the back of their last start performance, I am not willing to bet any more than one unit on the Knights

Predicted score Souths 28 – Knights 16

NRL Round 13: Knights v Eels

I was hoping that the Knights could be playing an Eels team without Mahoney, Gutherson and Paulo, but Gutherson was passed over for the 18th man role and it looks as if the plucky Eels hooker will be released and line up at dummy half on Sunday.

That means that despite being in 3rd place, the Eels will only lose Paulo to Origin duty. With a very good injury toll, the Eels head into this match with a strong squad.

After a very poor defensive performance, Blake Ferguson has been dropped this week, meaning Haze Dunster gets a go in first grade. However besides that, it is a very settled Eels team and the bookies have them big favourites here.

While the Knights showed plenty of fight last weekend to beat Manly, they head into this one with further key outs. Although the absence of Ponga, Pearce, Hunt, Mann and Lee hurt their attacking strike power, their pack was still very impressive last week.

But due to injury, suspension and Origin, they will be without their three key middle forwards in D Saifiti, D Klemmer and Frizell. This means that they are going to call upon NSW Cup players like Jack Johns and M Croker. Although these guys can definitely play, it is a big ask to step up against a pack featuring Campbell-Gillard, I Papalii, N Brown and R Matterson.

The Eels also welcome back Dylan Brown, who will stiffen up their defence on the fringes, so unfortunately for our Knights futures bets, the Knights are going to have to pull out something special here.

As a plus, Connor Watson is in amazing form and J Clifford will likely debut for the club. He and Crossland should provide the Knights with the first genuine halves partnership they have had since Pearce was injured.

Hoy, Best and To’a can all finish tries, while Barnett, J Saifiti and Fitzgibbon will provide some experience in the middle.

At home on Old Boys day in Newcastle, I am expecting another spirited performance from the Knights, but they will likely fall short due to their inability to create points with so many key players out.

Predicted score Eels 28 – Knights 16

NRL Round 12: Knights v Sea Eagles

Once again, despite being named and a lot of positive talk about him playing, Ponga has been ruled out of this one….which is a massive blow to the desperate Knights.

As you know, I have bet quite a bit of the Knights this year and their continued run of injuries is infuriating. Not only has Ponga meant to be back weeks ago, they have also had to battle for most of the year without their starting wingers from last year (Hunt and Lee).

Last weekend, the Cowboys exposed the fill-ins, but shifting it out wide and although Coach O’Brien recognised their inexperienced outside backs are a big weakness, he does not have many other options until Hunt and Lee are back on deck.

Thankfully, Bradman Best is back this weekend and that will provide them with some strike power, but it remains to be see what they will do to replace Ponga at 1. Mann is not the guy to do it, after a few more horrible errors on the weekend, while Hoy also struggled last time he was given a shot….though he is who should get the job due to his decent early season form at 1.

As for Manly, I thought they might be brought to earth by the Eels at Bankwest, but instead they grew another leg and are now clearly a genuine threat in this competition.

They welcome back Sironen via the bench this weekend, while Lawton showed what a smart acquisition he was by Coach Hassler.

On my ratings Manly look far better than the Knights due to the key players still missing for the Knights, but with the home ground advantage I think the Knights might be more competitive than the market is predicting.

Not enough difference for me to have a bet on this one.

Predicted score Sea Eagles 26 – Knights 16

NRL Round 9: Raiders v Knights

Over the last four weeks the Knights defence has fallen to pieces. From Round 1 to 4, the Knights had less missed tackles than any other team (79 in four games). Since then (from Round 5 – 8), the Knights have missed 137 tackles. That is the third worst in the competition.

While player attitude could be a problem, I think the variance in the strength of the draw is the core issue driving such wild swings.

In the past month, the Knights have played the Titans, Sharks, Panthers and Roosters. Over the course of the season, these teams are among the top of the list in terms of tackle breaks – ie the Panthers (2nd), Titans (4th) and Roosters (5th).

Whereas earlier in the year the Knights were playing against the likes of the Bulldogs (16th in tackle breaks), Dragons (14th in tackle breaks) and Warriors (11th in tackle breaks).

While this does not excuse the Knights’ drop-off in defence, it does show that rather it being purely an attitude problem, the past month has seen them play against some impressive attacking teams.

Unfortunately for the Knights, playing a Raiders team with its backs against the wall, in a small country town is not an easy assignment.

While the Raiders defended poorly at times out wide, overall, it was a very spirited affair, and I am expecting the Green Machine to come out and try to squash the media rumour mill about their being disharmony in the squad.

On my ratings these teams match up quite well at present and although I give the Raiders a slight home advantage, there is too much doubt about the mental state of guys like Tapine, Papallii and G Williams for me to have a bet in this one.

Predicted score Raiders 22 – Knights 16

Steve Green is back with NRL Tips in 2021. With all of Steve's best bets and full previews of every NRL game, it's the only way to bet the NRL. Join now to start beating the bookies!


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