Defending premiers the Roosters play away to the undefeated Eels, after the Raiders got the win at home to the Knights.
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Eels v Roosters
Raiders rule in Canberra as Knights slip
The Raiders celebrate Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad’s first try against the Knights. (AAP: Rohan Thomson)
The Raiders have secured their second win of the season by beating Newcastle 17-10 in Canberra, as the Knights reconsider the Kalyn Ponga five-eighth experiment.
It appears Ponga’s hold of the number six jersey is over after just three NRL matches, as he retreated to full-back during the Knights’ second loss of the season.
Knights coach Nathan Brown initially resisted the urge to backflip on the tactic, opting to start Kurt Mann at full-back on Friday night, with Connor Watson out through injury.
The safety-first approach backfired with Mann putting down a regulation bomb in the first half, while Ponga was virtually unsighted in the opening stanza, held to a paltry seven run metres before they switched roles with 20 minutes to go.
Ponga’s return to full-back started shakily when he came up with an error on a kick return, but the move had a clear impact on their attack with Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossing untouched to set up a grandstand finish with 16 minutes remaining.
The Knights looked set to force golden point when Mann broke into the clear in the 75th minute, but their attacking raid amounted to nothing when Edrick Lee was dragged into touch on the following play.
It was a wasteful start by the Raiders, with Ryan Sutton and Sam Williams failing to finish off Josh Hodgson’s brilliant lead-up work, but it was a case of third time lucky for the number nine whose angled grubber found a flying Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to open the scoring.
Having looked lackadaisical in attack for the opening quarter, it took a simple one-on-one miss by Jack Wighton to invite the Knights back into contest as Jesse Ramien burnt them down the right edge to get the visitors on the board.
Lee did a remarkable job to deny Joey Leilua a four-pointer, but his defensive heroics only delayed the inevitable as Williams sliced through to give the hosts a deserved 12-4 lead at the break.
Persistent rain resulted in a sloppy second half from both teams, but the conditions proved to be Nicoll-Klokstad’s best friend as the slippery full-back broke through to push the lead out to two converted tries before Williams’s late field goal put the result beyond doubt.