Bulldogs v Knights preview

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights Saturday 3:00pm at Suncorp Stadium

Knights look to continue push towards top eight against struggling Bulldogs

Unlike the Broncos and Panthers, pundits had fairly low expectations of the Bulldogs in 2019.

It means that despite making a disappointing 2-6 start to the season, the pressure has been largely diverted away from Canterbury.

However the fact remains that another loss will make it that much harder for the Bulldogs to qualify for the finals this year.

And while they may still be in a rebuilding phase, no side wants to be out of contention midway through the competition.

Coach Dean Pay could have taken a lot out of last week's loss to Manly. While they suffered an 18-10 defeat, both sides scored two tries with goal-kicking the only difference.

Execution in attack was lacking at times though and offence has proved a constant issue for Canterbury in 2019, having scored the least points in the league thus far.

Kieran Foran has been named on the reserves and could potentially make his return from an ankle injury to line up at five-eighth.

It would be a massive boost for the club if his last performance against the Tigers is anything to go by.

The five-eighth had his best outing in years, putting adversity behind him to score a try and generally take command of the side as the Dogs took the game 22-8.

Unfortunately for Canterbury, they come up against a rejuvenated Knights outfit this week.

Only a month ago Newcastle looked like they would be battling Pay's men for the spoon. But two-straight wins over the Eels and Warriors have propelled them right back into finals contention.

And pivotal to their sudden form reversal has been Mitchell Pearce. The much-maligned halfback's running game has been impressive, two tries to his name from the past fortnight.

While Kalyn Ponga remains their greatest attacking weapon, a confident Pearce taking on the line is crucial in keeping the opposition guessing in defence given his already strong kicking and passing game close to the line.

Last meeting: Round 16 2018 - Knights 16 Bulldogs 36

The Bulldogs ran over the top of Newcastle 36-16 in their Round 16 clash at McDonald Jones Stadium last year.

Who to watch: The Canterbury pack was outmuscled last weekend, running for a total of 764 metres compared to Manly's 995. Dylan Napa's work rate was still high in his return from an ankle injury though, running 104 metres and making 24 tackles from just 37 minutes on the field.

This week, he comes up against a former Bulldog in David Klemmer who will desperate to get one over his old teammates. Klemmer currently ranks second and first in the competition for run metres and post-contact metres respectively. The 25-year old has more than lived up to his price tag at the Hunter and will have to step up again this week against the always competitive Napa. 

The favourite: The in-form Knights are well-backed to win this one.

My tip: Canterbury are close to their third win of the year but may struggle to score as many points as the high-flying Newcastle side. Knights by 10.

1. Nick Meaney 2. Jayden Okunbor 21. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Jack Cogger 19. Kieran Foran 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 16. Adam Elliot 23. Chris Smith 14. Fa'amanu Brown 15. Danny Fualalo 17. Sauaso Sue 22. Ofahiki Ogden

1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Hymel Hunt 21. Jesse Ramien 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Connor Watson 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Danny Levi 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Tim Glasby 4. Sione Mata'utia 14. Kurt Mann 15. Herman Ese'ese 16. James Gavet

Referees: Matt Cecchin, Tim Roby; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Chris McMillan; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;

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