North Sydney Bears (6) v Newcastle Knights (7) – Elimination Final
UOW Jubilee Oval, Sunday 3 September
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au
The Bears and Knights meet to kick off a triple-header of live-streamed matches on Sunday afternoon, both hoping to stay alive in the competition. It will require a reversal in fortunes for Newcastle, while the Bears welcome back some key men as they look to continue their winning run.
North Sydney’s past six games have brought three wins – one of which came over their Sunday opposition, albeit by a two-point margin. Newcastle boast the same success rate from their past six matches and importantly, all but one of those games have finished with no more than six points the difference. Simon Woolford’s men are certainly prepared for a close encounter, but admits the team has a big challenge ahead of them.
“We’ve played them twice this year and they’ve beaten us twice,” Woolford tells NSWRL.com.au. “Obviously they’ve got some key NRL players that probably drop back into their team this week.
“They’ve got some big strong forwards, we need to match them there and Luke Kelly in the halves is quite creative too. He hurt a few weeks ago when we played them at North Sydney so we’re going to have to do a good job on him.”
North Sydney certainly have bragging rights over Newcastle in recent times; they’ve emerged victorious in their past five encounters. The last of those was easily the closest when the Bears won 18-16 at North Sydney Oval, but the Knights will take a lot from that match when looking ahead to Sunday. It was only an Eli Levido penalty goal a minute before full-time which separated them on that occasion, but the rest of the game points towards a close one again this weekend.
Where it will be won:
As Woolford explained, Luke Kelly will be vital to the Bears’ chances in Kogarah, with the Knights aiming to shut him down as much as possible. The experienced halfback was partnered by Team of the Year selection Ed Murphy in Round 25, but this week Murphy looks likely to shift back to the centres and allow Adam Doueihi to play five-eighth.
The Knights have often found points via livewire fullback Nick Meaney and five-eighth Jaelen Feeney this year, so Sunday afternoon will be no exception. They will be without regular halfback Jack Cogger, who has not played in two weeks, but Will Pearsall is a strong replacement. Their back line of Tom Hughes, Brendan Elliot, Jacob Gagan and Chanel Mata’utia is also an experienced one; three have NRL experience while the other was named in the Team of the Year.