Raiders v Knights: Schiller comes onto bench; Clune in for Clifford

Canberra and Newcastle meet at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon with form lines that show just one win from the last five rounds, but perhaps missing the full picture of truly where these sides are at.

Led by the stoic efforts of Joseph Tapine and Jack Wighton, the Raiders can consider themselves a touch unlucky to have fallen by eight to the Eels, six to the Roosters and six to the Broncos over the past three weeks.

Prior to that, Ricky Stuart's men were superb in knocking off the Rabbitohs in Dubbo and the Sharks on the Shire but, at the end of it all, still head into Sunday's clash with just two Premiership points more than the Novocastrians.

The Knights were soundly beaten at home by Penrith in what is fast becoming an all-too-familiar sight for the Newcastle faithful, having been outscored 197-28 over the course of their past five matches at McDonald Jones Stadium.

As such, coach Adam O'Brien may well relish the chance to get on the road this weekend, having won their past two away matches against the Bulldogs (in Round 10) and Warriors (in Round 12). Newcastle have not lost to Canberra since O'Brien took over in 2020, but each of those results did come away from the nation's capital.

Heading into the round sitting in 11th and 12th position respectively, it's starting to approach must-win territory for both sides in order to maintain touching distance with the top eight and a spot in the Telstra Premiership finals at the end of the year.

The Rundown
Team news

Raiders: Jordan Rapana returns from suspension on the wing with James Schiller coming onto the bench. Corey Harawira-Naera goes to 18th man with Brad Schneider the other reserve. Josh Papalii is back in the starting side after coming off the bench last week following his Origin commitments.

Knights: Adam Clune is a late inclusion, replacing Jake Clifford in the halves. Kalyn Ponga (concussion protocols) is on track to play and remains at fullback. Kurt Mann moves into the starting side at lock with Mitch Barnett going to the second row and Lachlan Fitzgibbon dropping to the reserves. 

Key match-up
Joseph Tapine v David Klemmer: While their respective teams might not be going the best, it's tough to question the commitment or effort produced by Joseph Tapine or David Klemmer on a week-to-week basis as the two book-ends continue to churn away in the middle. No player has made more post contact metres this year than Tapine (964m), who also ranks fourth in the competition for offloads (26), while the Kiwi international leads all forwards for run metres with 2,245. Since returning from injury in Round 6, Klemmer has been equally vital for his side — averaging just shy of 145 metres per game while completing his tackles at a 97.1 percent efficiency rate. In what could well be a free-flowing contest, which ever forward pack can get on top early will be key in setting their side up for victory on Sunday. Look for Tapine and Klemmer as the ones to try and make that happen on each side of the ball.

Stat Attack
Having scored the fewest points of any side this season, Newcastle also head into this week's game with the fewest tackle breaks, post-contact metres, offloads and run metres — a dark picture for Knights fans so far this year.

But they do shade the Raiders in terms of discipline, which could well be the key to victory on Sunday. Canberra have conceded the third most penalties (92) and made the most handling errors (134) of any side, while their missed and ineffective tackles number is also significantly higher than the Knights — ranking seventh in ineffective (compared to Newcastle in 14th) and eighth in missed tackles (compared to 12th).


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