Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
The St George Illawarra Dragons turned their finals fortunes around last weekend with a resounding win over the Sea Eagles – but a threat lies ahead in the Newcastle Knights.
The Knights gave the Dragons an almighty scare last time they met and have remained in most games to the bitter end since, which spells an 80 minute performance is required from the Red V.
Newcastle will have to make do with winger Chanel Mata'utia after he was concussed last weekend against the Roosters. He'll be replaced by Ken Sio.
The Dragons have a couple of changes too with Joel Thompson (ankle) named to return in the back row after being a late withdrawal last week. Thompson returns at the expense of Blake Lawrie.
Euan Aitken's (shoulder) latest setback has opened the door for Josh Dugan (hamstring) to slot back into the team in the centres following Matt Dufty's solid NRL debut against the Sea Eagles.
Knights: 1. Nathan Ross, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata'utia, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Jamie Buhrer (c), 10. Josh King, 11. Sione Mata'utia (c), 12. Joe Wardle, 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Luke Yates, 16. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 17. Mickey Paea, 18. Jack Cogger, 19. Sam Stone, 20. Brendan Elliott, 21. Jacob Saifiti.
Dragons: 1. Matt Dufty, 2. Nene Macdonald, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Tim Lafai, 5. Jason Nightingale, 6. Gareth Widdop (c), 7. Josh McCrone, 8. Leeson Ah Mau, 9. Cameron McInnes, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Joel Thompson, 13.Jack de Belin. Interchange: 14. Tariq Sims, 15. Jacob Host, 16. Russell Packer, 17. Kurt Mann, 18. Blake Lawrie, 19. Taane Milne, 20. Luciano Leilua, 21. Jake Marketo.
Key Match-Up: Mitchell Barnett v Jack de Belin: The ball-playing locks are a dying breed but in Barnett and de Belin there's still hope for the traditional role intended for the No. 13 jersey. The two locks are the most proficient offloaders within their respective teams. Their workloads (Barnett – 85.9 metres, 36.1 tackles per game; de Belin – 128.9 metres, 33.7 tackles per game) remain crucial for both the Knights and Dragons' fortunes.
The History: Played 33; Knights 10, Dragons 23. The Dragons survived a last start fright against the Knights when they last played five weeks ago. Down 28-10 at half-time, the Red V clawed their way back into proceedings to claim a four-point victory. The Dragons' win made it five-consecutive wins for them against Newcastle.
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Sideline Officials: Ricky MacFarlane and Clayton Sharpe.
Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 2:25pm
Radio: ABC and Triple M