Newcastle expect Dogs to attack left-side defence

SKIPPER Kurt Gidley has no doubt Canterbury will target the Knights’ new-look left edge in Sunday’s important showdown in Newcastle.
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The Knights’ left-side defence was torn to shreds by the Raiders in Sunday’s 44-14 thrashing at Canberra Stadium, conceding seven tries in 48minutes.

The capitulation cost Timana Tahu his backline position after Knights coach Wayne Bennett reacted by dumping the dual international and experienced forward Chris Houston to NSW Cup.

Tahu could not contain his opposite number, Blake Ferguson, who scored a hat-trick and threw the final pass for two other tries by winger Sandor Earl.

He has been replaced as left centre by 2012 City Origin representative Joseph Leilua, who will play his second game since joining the Knights from the Roosters at the end of last year.

Canterbury’s right-side attack includes Josh Reynolds, Tony Williams, Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett, with fullback Ben Barba chiming in.

They are likely to be marked by Tyrone Roberts, Alex McKinnon, Leilua and James McManus, with Darius Boyd the last line of defence.

Gidley predicted the Bulldogs’ game plan this week would focus on exploiting any uncertainties on Newcastle’s left flank.

‘‘Yeah, I’d say so, for sure,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘Any smart coach would be going down and attacking anywhere a team the week before were weak. We realise that.

‘‘We’ve gone through the video and the only way to get around it and move on is to roll up your sleeves and plenty of talk when you’re defending on the edge and being proactive.’’

Gidley said the Knights needed to ‘‘get their hands dirty’’ against the Bulldogs, who have returned to form with consecutive wins.

‘‘We don’t want back-to-back bad performances, and we need to turn things around,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘It’s about putting your body on the line, being committed.

‘‘The defensive efforts and reads [against Canberra] were not up to scratch, not first-grade standard.

‘‘We need to turn it around quick smart this week.’’

Gidley said he was disappointed for Tahu, who admitted being ‘‘a bit rattled’’ as he tried to deal with the rampant Ferguson.

‘‘Any time you put in a bad performance and you get beat by 40, there’s going to be changes the following week,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘Those guys [Tahu and Houston], they’re good mates of mine and they’re professional, and they’ll go back to reserve grade and knuckle down, and I’m sure I’ll see them back in first grade.’’

Leilua, who has signed with Newcastle for three years, will now attempt to cement a backline berth after biding his time in reserve grade.

‘‘He’s up to it,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘He’s a big, intimidating player, BJ. He’s trained well this morning.

‘‘He’s skilful, he’s a big guy, he’s strong.

‘‘He’s got it all, BJ, and he just needs to realise he’s got all those talents, so put them to use … all I want to see him do is carry the ball nice and hard.’’

Gidley said it was too early in the season to categorise this week’s game fixture as a turning point for his team.

‘‘It’s an important game, after losing two in a row,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no doubt about that.

‘‘But we’ve had some good performances at home this year and we need to get back to where we were in those previous games.’’

PROBLEM AREA: Canberra’s Blake Ferguson runs past James McManus to score down Newcastle’s left flank on Sunday. Picture: Getty Images