While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Two disappointing yet desperate sides battle at Belmore
The Bulldogs return to Belmore on Sunday afternoon for what will be five-eighth Josh Reynold's final game at the club's spiritual home. However, if that is not motivation enough, the Bulldogs will also be desperate to keep their slim finals hopes alive this week after suffering a tight 13-12 defeat at the hands of Parramatta last weekend. The Bulldogs have now only won one of their past seven games and have not scored more than 18 points since Round 7. Canterbury's struggles in attack have been well documented and posting points this week will be even harder without Origin representatives Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer. In saying this, Des Hasler's men do come up against the worst defensive side in the competition this week in the form of the Knights.
Everything pointed towards a Newcastle victory last week. They had put in their best first half performance against the Dragons the week prior and certainly would have taken confidence out of that despite the full time score line. In addition, the Novocastrians were celebrating their annual "Voice for Mining" day and were faced with a Tigers side on a seven-game losing streak going into Sunday afternoon's clash. Yet, disappointingly for the 20,000 fans who turned up, the Knights put in one of their worst efforts of the year, collapsing to a 33-12 defeat. There was one player, however, who stood up for the Newcastle outfit, running 268 metres, making two line breaks, setting up a try and busting 14 tackles - and that was Dane Gagai, who will not be there on Sunday afternoon as he prepares to line up for Queensland on Wednesday night. The Tigers have been gifted the two points this week courtesy of the bye and as a result, another loss for Newcastle will see them fall further behind and closer to their third straight Wooden Spoon.
The Bulldogs held on for a 22-12 win in Newcastle in Round 6.
Who to watch: The Bulldogs will need more spark from five-eighth Josh Reynolds if they are to prevail on Sunday afternoon. Reynolds will line up for what will be his last game playing in the Blue and White at Belmore and the Bulldogs fans will be hoping that the occasion will bring the best out of their enigmatic No. 6. Reynolds has only managed one try assist from eleven appearances this season and will need to improve on this on Sunday afternoon if he is to ignite his side's spluttering attack.
Nathan Ross has been named to play in the fullback position again on Sunday afternoon. Ross' talent is undeniable, yet his performance last week in the No. 1 jersey was shaky. Ross appeared uncomfortable under the high ball and was unable to really inject himself into the game. In saying this, Ross starred only the week before against the Dragons, scoring three tries, making two line breaks and running for 232 metres proving that coach Nathan Brown is worth persisting with him at the back.
My tip: A tough one to end the round. Neither side has looked close to their best in recent weeks. Ultimately, the Bulldogs rank fourth best in the competition in defence while the Knights find themselves right down the bottom of the competition for that category and that should be the difference. Bulldogs by 4.
1. William Hopoate 2. Kerrod Holland 3. Josh Morris 4. Chase Stanley 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 17. Matt Frawley 10. Danny Fualalo 11. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 12. Adam Elliot 13. Sam Kasiano 9. Michael Lichaa 14. Francis Tualau 15. Asipeli Fine 16. Andy Saunders
1. Nathan Ross 2. Chanel Mata'utia 3. Joe Wardle 4. Peter Mata'utia 5. Brendan Elliott 6. Trent Hodkinson 18. Brock Lamb 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh King 11. Sione Mata'utia 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Jamie Buhrer 15. Luke Yates 17. Jacob Saifiti 21. Mickey Paea