Dragons v Knights NRLW preview

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St George Illawarra Dragons v Newcastle Knights Sunday 3:45pm at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

The final match of the NRLW season sees a game that will most likely see two sides play each other again next weekend, with the Newcastle Knights taking on the St George Illawarra Dragons in the third of Sunday's matches.

The St George Illawarra Dragons needed more than the standard 70 minutes last weekend for their 19-18 victory over the Brisbane Broncos in Melbourne last weekend. The Dragons had to hold off a fast finishing Broncos side who had to come from 18-8 down to force Golden Point before the Red ‘V' took the victory. It wasn't a clinical or consistent performance from the Dragons which is something that they will be wanting to fix.

The victory for the Dragons has secured them a spot in the NRLW top 3 at the very least with this weekend's match settling whether they finish second or third but as known they will still be playing the Knights. The Dragons started the season off well with two wins but their second half efforts against the Roosters would've unsettled them big time conceding 30 points there and then 14 second half points is a concern that they need to fix up before the finals.

Naming the same 22 player squad as last week, the Dragons will almost definitely change their line-up for the contest given coach Jamie Soward's propensity to do that. There are some doubts about the fitness of Talei Holmes with a knee injury with Zali Hopkins likely to come into the side.

Despite missing star fullback Tamika Upton, the Knights were almost able to pull off a miracle comeback victory last weekend in their 18-16 loss to the Roosters with only an error coming back to cost them late. The Knights weren't in the game early as the Tricolours dominated things until the second half where Newcastle were able to find composure and fight their way back to lead 16-12 until a loose pass saw the Roosters regain possession for the match winning try.

The game this weekend for the Knights won't be so much about position on the ladder with at least second spot wrapped up, it'll be about trying to find some consistency that at times despite their strong season has been lacking across their performances. The Knights were strong in Round 1 but followed it up with scratchy efforts against the Titans and the Eels taking victories there before their comeback against the Roosters when they were slow starters. With the finals ahead, the Knights will need to look to put a 70-minute performance in.

Newcastle welcome back fullback Tamika Upton who was missing from last weeks contest with the Knights with Shanice Parker moving back to the centres. Impressive debutant from last week, Emma Paki keeps her spot as Bobbi Law is dropped to the reserves as she battles a hip complaint. Kayla Romaniuk could make her debut being added to the bench replacing the suspended Caitlin Moran.

Last meeting: Round 4 2021 - Knights 4 Dragons 40

Who to watch: Dragons halfback Rachael Pearson has had a quiet season to date but played an important role for the Red ‘V' last week as she kicked the all important match-winning field goal. Not as dominant as some of the other halfbacks in the competition, Pearson does control the Dragons around the park and needs to stand up against the Knights.

Caitlan Johnston was both the hero and villain for the Knights last week with her try late in the contest looking as if it was the match winner before a penalty late in the game hurt the Knights chances of making another comeback. The prop forward has been a star this season and possesses dangerous size and skills that make her hard to stop when in full flight. Johnston will be confident and after winning NSW state of origin player of the year she will be looking to continue marking her mark.

The favourite: Newcastle have the support of the punters to get the job done and secured 2nd place.

My tip: This is a difficult game, both sides match each other well across the park and have had similar seasons and will be interesting to see what tactics they bring out given their battle again next weekend. The Knights probably just have that little bit more x-factor in their game and I think they can edge a game that wouldn't surprise if it went beyond 70 minutes. Knights by 1.

1. Emma Tonegato 2. Teagan Berry 6. Taliah Fuimaono 21. Shontelle Stowers 5. Andie Robinson 19. Zali Hopkins 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Elsie Albert 14. Quincy Dodd 10. Tara McGrath-West 12. Shaylee Bent 17. Chantel Tugaga 13. Holli Wheeler 3. Keele Browne 9. Keeley Davis 18. Renee Targett 20. Aliti Namoce 22. Salma Nour

3. Shanice Parker 4. Emmanita Paki 1. Bobbi Law 5. Kiana Takairangi 20. Jessica Gentle 6. Kirra Dibb 7. Jesse Southwell 8. Caitlan Johnston 9. Olivia Higgins 10. Millie Boyle 11. Romy Teitzel 12. Yasmin Clydsdale 16. Kayla Romaniuk 13. Simone Karpani 14. Emma Manzelmann 15. Tayla Predebon 17. Makenzie Weale 19. Kyra Simon

Referees: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Sideline Officials: Karra-Lee Nolan, Rochelle Tamarua; Video Referees: Chris Butler;

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