Knights v Raiders: Best, Tuala stood down; Tapine, Cotric return

After Canberra snuck away with a narrow victory against the Dragons at home on Sunday they will be looking to stay within reach of the top eight when they take on Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Raiders almost let the Dragons off the hook in a frantic finish but the two-point win keeps them hot on the heels of the Roosters with three games to play.

The occasion will be an intriguing trip for the visitors, who haven't played the Knights at home for five years. Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric, Jordan Rapana, Elliot Whitehead and Joseph Tapine are the only current Raiders who featured in the 2017 game.

Meanwhile, Newcastle are reeling after five defeats from their past six matches, finding themselves in 14th position on the ladder.

With a NSW Cup curtain-raiser and a NRLW Round 1 clash to be played after the NRL match, a loud and passionate crowd is guaranteed at McDonald Jones Stadium and that could be worth a few points to the Knights.

The Rundown
Team news

Knights: Centre Bradman Best and winger Enari Tuala have been stood down by the club for disciplinary reasons and will play NSW Cup this weekend. Edrick Lee is back from a foot injury on the wing and Krystian Mapapalangi will make his NRL debut at centre. David Klemmer (knee) returns so Jacob Saifiti shifts to lock, Mat Croker to the bench and Sauaso Sue to 18th Man. No changes in Saturday's 24-hour update.

Raiders: Joseph Tapine (ribs) is back in the front row so Emre Guler goes to the bench and Ryan Sutton drops to the reserves list. Winger Nick Cotric returns from a one-game suspension which pushes Albert Hopoate to 18th Man. The Green Machine also welcome coach Ricky Stuart back after his one-week suspension. No changes to the squad when it was trimmed to 19 on Saturday.

Key match-up
Josh Papalii v David Klemmer: While one prop's team is fighting to keep their season alive and another is trying to finish their season with pride, it's tough to question the commitment or effort from 'Papa' and 'Klem'. On a week-to-week basis the two book-ends continue to churn away in the middle for their sides with Papalii producing 987 post-contact metres and Klemmer 986. Papalii also ranks fourth in the competition for offloads (35). Since returning from injury in Round 6, Klemmer has been equally vital for his side — averaging 156 metres per game while completing his tackles at a 97.3 percent efficiency rate. In what could well be a free-flowing contest, whichever forward pack can get on top early will be key in setting their side up for victory.

Stat Attack
The Raiders are second in the NRL for offloads with 254, led by Joseph Tapine with 37 and Josh Papalii 35. The Knights are ranked 10th for offloads with 190, led by David Klemmer with 29.


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