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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Newcastle Knights Sunday 2:00pm at Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park / Wanngal

Bulldogs at home to put bite on Knights

Sunday afternoon will kick off the end of round 7, with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs hosting the Newcastle Knights at Accor Stadium. With both teams on two wins and four losses apiece, one team has the chance to set their season up for greater results.

We've seen a much improved Bulldogs side emerge over the last few rounds, with some players finally finding the form they were pegged to bring to the side. Josh Addo-Carr's hot form last week, against his old club and home ground, no less, saw him put together a hat trick of tries against the Melbourne Storm in what could have been the upset of the round and the year. Falling short by 2 points, coach Cameron Ciraldo still praised the team highly.
That, as well as the form that Viliame Kikau has found on the Bulldogs' left edge, could show that the penny has finally dropped for them, who have been languishing at the bottom end of the ladder for the last seven years.

Ciraldo feels his players have been turning up each week. In the last round against Melbourne Storm, they did very well but were let down by "moments." Those moments were reflected in their completion rate not being up to par and ruck infringements that invited the opposition back into the game. 

Ciraldo welcomes back Blake Taaffe to the team but will keep speedster Connor Tracey at fullback. Kurtis Morrin returns from suspension and his energy off the bench will be welcome for the Doggies.

Knights coach Adam O'Brien will be happy his team has finally had a longer rest and less travel for games. He felt the travel commitments in the previous rounds left his players a little tired, even though they were putting in gutsy performances.

If there was any fatigue, it was outshone by a gritty performance by the Knights against the Roosters last round. However, a glaring problem still seems to exist for the Knights. After a deadly start from Ponga in the opening first half, an injury to his hip flexor saw him go quiet and allowed the Roosters back into the game. Ponga returned in the second half to push his team close, but it begs the question of how they would have gone had a lethal Ponga been on the field for 80 minutes. The halves combination of Hastings and Cogger seems to be on track but may bear more fruit with a fit spine.

O'Brien has rewarded his men's gutsy efforts by naming an unchanged lineup for round 7. The Knights will still be without forward Tyson Frizell due to his ongoing hamstring issue, while Adam Elliot will be running out for his 150th NRL appearance.

Last meeting: Round 24 2023 - Knights 42 Bulldogs 6

Who to watch: The left-side combination of Viliame Kikau, Bronson Xerri, and Josh Addo-Carr has everyone's imagination jumping. They gave the Melbourne Storm headaches when they got on the front foot, and their short passes stuck. Give Addo-Carr space, and he will eat up tries all day. Connor Tracey was a man possessed, taking the ball back with blistering speed off the kick returns. It's not that his style was tough to deal with, but it laid a platform for his team to gain momentum each time. Jacob Kiraz must be drinking the same water, as his performance echoed Tracey's venom but with an extra dimension of being able to stand up tacklers on his first touch and generally make life difficult for defenders.

A fit Kalyn Ponga is a dangerous Kalyn Ponga who can leave the best defensive structures in tatters. If the Bulldogs wait for him and are bedazzled, it will be good night, Irene. Jackson Hastings's boot was finding form again, and with a good week of training with Jack Cogger, they may find the rub of the green against Matt Burton. The Kai Pearce-Paul show was on last weekend. The English forward was a leader up front; watch for the tall timber to have a showdown with the Doggies' pack.

Favourite: Sitting in 14th and 15th, with two wins and four losses apiece, there is not much in this, but the Knights may be ahead with the touch of class that Ponga can bring to the team.

My tip: The Bulldogs have been humiliated in the last two outings against the Knights, but I feel that trend will stop this round. A solid team effort across the board, combinations starting to light up, and intestinal fortitude, being a man down against the Melbourne Storm and keeping within a whisper of winning that game, have won me over. Bulldogs to knock the Knights off their horse by 2 points.

1. Connor Tracey 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Drew Hutchison 22. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Chris Patolo 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Jaeman Salmon 13. Josh Curran 8. Samuel Hughes 14. Bailey Hayward 16. Kurtis Morrin 17. Blake Taaffe 21. Jake Turpin

1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Greg Marzhew 5. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 22. Thomas Jenkins 20. Tyson Gamble 7. Jackson Hastings 15. Daniel Saifiti 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Leo Thompson 11. Dylan Lucas 12. Kai Pearce-Paul 13. Adam Elliott 8. Jacob Saifiti 14. Phoenix Crossland 16. Jack Hetherington 19. Brodie Jones 17. Mathew Croker

Referees: Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Clayton Wills, Phil Henderson; Video Referees: Wyatt Raymond;

Match facts

HEAD TO HEAD since 1988
ALL55 28 26 1
ACCOR 15 8 7 0
2021 R23 NEW 22-16 Cbus Super 2343
2022 R10 NEW 16-6 Suncorp 30220
2022 R20 CBY 24-10 McD. Jones 19813
2023 R18 NEW 66-0 Accor 11004
2023 R24 NEW 42-6 McD. Jones 23464
2004 R25 CBY 52-6 Telstra 20043
2023 R18 NEW 66-0 Accor 11004

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