Schick Hydro Preview: Newcastle Knights v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
McDonald Jones Stadium
What a difference a week makes.
The Knights were stinging after an embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Panthers but bounced back to get within a point of upsetting last year's premiers in a pulsating game away from home.
Newcastle had next to no ball for the majority of the contest but hit back with two late tries to level the game up, only for James Maloney to sink them at the death with a field goal.
It was the sort of game that they might have lost by 30 points in 2016, but this year's band of brothers is made of sterner stuff and the players were probably disappointed they didn't come away with the two points.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were at a loss to explain their 36-0 defeat against Manly but managed to turn it around with a spirited 10-7 win over the Broncos that earned coach Des Hasler a two-year contract extension.
Playing behind a dominant forward pack, the steadying boot of fill-in halfback Matt Frawley and the unrivalled energy of Josh Reynolds helped the Dogs overturn a half-time deficit with a pair of unanswered second-half tries to claim the upset win.
But a week's a long time in footy, and what matters is how they back up last week's efforts.
Nathan Ross returns on the wing for the Knights while Danny Levi will start at hooker, pushing Jamie Buhrer to the back row.
Moses Mbye reclaims his No.7 jersey from Frawley who moves back to the extended bench.
Why the Knights can win: There is something about McDonald Jones Stadium that makes the Knights grow an extra leg. They might have only won two games since the start of 2016, but both of those were at home where they enjoy a 12-8 head-to-head record over the Bulldogs.
Why the Bulldogs can win: The Bulldogs might be sitting in 14th spot for metres gained in 2017, but the 'Dogs of War' showed they are far from a spent force with an NRL-best 1872 running metres in Round 5. David Klemmer led the league with 266 metres and was well supported by James Graham (179), Sam Kasiano (168), Aiden Tolman (151) and Josh Jackson (151). The Knights only tallied 1178 metres last week and are ranked 16th overall in 2017. If they allow the Bulldogs to dominate the middle of the field then it could be a long night at the office for Nathan Brown's men.
The history: Played 43; Knights 20: Bulldogs 22; Drawn 1. The Knights won all three meetings in 2013 – including their match-up in Week One of the finals – but the Bulldogs have won three on the trot since then, including a 28-14 victory in Newcastle last year.
Match officials: Referee: Adam Gee. Assistant referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline officials: Jeff Younis and Adam Reid.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 5:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: Scoring points has been an issue for these two teams, so don't expect an avalanche of tries in the Hunter on Friday night. Canterbury's forwards should cause enough problems for their little men to do some damage, and that's why the Bulldogs will win by eight points.