Knights v Dragons NRLW preview

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Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons Sunday 2:05pm at Suncorp Stadium, Milton

A second battle in as many weeks between the Newcastle Knights and the St George-Illawarra Dragons opens up the NRLW finals series at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Newcastle Knights have had a strong season to this point only losing the one game on their way to the second place finishing they achieved this season. Confidence has been something that hasn't been lacking in the Hunter this season and the Knights will be brimming with confidence following their 30-8 victory over the Dragons last weekend in the final game of the NRLW season in a performance that could only be described as pure dominance.

Starting slowly, the Knights were able to put themselves into a dominant position on either side of the halftime break with tries that took the game quickly away from the Dragons. The Novocastrians were able to dominate possession and territory during the second half which gave their opposition no chance and set up a framework for the performance this week that the Knights can use despite no doubt the Dragons fielding a different looking side to last weekend.

The Knights welcome back Tamika Upton who has missed the last two matches in a massive boost for Newcastle to have their star fullback in the team again. The return of Upton means that Shanice Parker moves back to the centres with Jessica Gentle dropping back to the reserves in the only change for the Knights. Caitlin Moran could be a late inclusion returning to the reserves after her one game suspension.

With either a second or third position booked for the finals, Dragons coach Jamie Soward took the chance to experiment with his team and the make-up of the squad and it was a decision that hurt the Dragons last week as they were comprehensively outplayed in the loss to the Knights. The Red ‘V' started quickly but with possession heavily against them they began to struggle under the pressure with the relentless attack of the Knights.

The Dragons mixed season has raised a few questions marks about their performances this season and heading into the finals off a big loss isn't ideal for the Dragons although confidence levels won't be an issue for the Saints because they have a big turnover in players from last weekend given the large number of players that were rested by Jamie Soward last weekend. The result will probably be an outlier given that the Dragons side will look totally different to the one from last week.

As mentioned, there are a host of changes for the Dragons with Kezie Apps and Page McGregor are both returning after being rested whilst Tegan Dymock and Talei Holmes return from injury. These returns see Shontelle Stowers, Zali Hopkins, Chantel Tugaga, Renee Targett and Aliti Namoce all drop back to the reserves.

Last meeting: Round 5 2022 - Dragons 8 Knights 30

Who to watch: Returning from a 2-week layoff, Tamika Upton has made a big difference to the Knights line up and their performances over the past two weeks have shown that they don't need to rely on her but her return adds another weapon to the Newcastle side. The ability to pop up in any part of the field will be something that the Dragons need to watch out for.

Taliah Fuimaono has been a star for the Dragons this season and has been a key part of the game and arguably been the better of the 2 halves for the Red ‘V' this season. Playing in the centres last weekend, Fuimaono had a strong game but her ability to make play out of nothing in the middle of the park will be a big weapon again for the Dragons. Her play in the halves is going to be vitally important if the Dragons want to win.

The favourite: After their domination last week, Newcastle are better backed for this contest.

My tip: This is a game that will go down to the wire, last weeks result was a total anomaly and I think the Knights will still have enough to beat the Dragons but it's not going to be a contest that is anything like it was last weekend. A more solid base for the Dragons to start from is going to help them but a couple of little x-factor moments could help Newcastle significantly. Knights by 6.

1. Tamika Upton 2. Kiana Takairangi 3. Shanice Parker 4. Bobbi Law 5. Emmanita Paki 6. Kirra Dibb 7. Jesse Southwell 8. Caitlan Johnston 9. Olivia Higgins 10. Millie Boyle 11. Romy Teitzel 12. Yasmin Clydsdale 13. Kayla Romaniuk 14. Emma Manzelmann 15. Tayla Predebon 16. Simone Karpani 18. Caitlin Moran 17. Makenzie Weale

1. Emma Tonegato 2. Teagan Berry 6. Taliah Fuimaono 4. Page Mcgregor 5. Andie Robinson 19. Zali Hopkins 7. Rachael Pearson 8. Elsie Albert 9. Keeley Davis 11. Kezie Apps 16. Monalisa Soliola 12. Shaylee Bent 13. Holli Wheeler 14. Quincy Dodd 15. Talei Holmes 17. Tara McGrath-West 21. Shontelle Stowers 18. Renee Targett

Referees: Kasey Badger; Sideline Officials: Rochelle Tamarua, Mitchell Currie; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;

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