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Knights pack needs to match big Dogs: Sio

NZN 6/04/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Newcastle have taken some steps forward this season, but it hasn't come from their big men.

Fox Sports stats reveal no Knights forward is averaging more than 90 metres in the opening five games of the NRL season, which spells trouble ahead of Friday's clash with Canterbury.

While Nathan Brown's side have been widely lauded as making giant strides in the early periods of the campaign, statistics show their forward pack has taken a step back.

Their combined 1194 metres a game is 15th in the league, with bench prop Daniel Saifiti's average 86 metres their biggest output from their engine room.

They are figures that also show why the Knights have been searching for an established front-rower in the playing market, which included an attempt at Kangaroo Matt Scott.

Wingers Nathan Ross (155 metres a game) and Ken Sio (110), together with centre Peter Mata'utia (102), make up their top three in yardage gains.

Sio said it was imperative the Knights' forwards aim up against their Bulldogs counterparts to give their backline any hope of causing an upset at McDonald Jones Stadium.

"They're a big side, especially in the forwards. That's our task for this weekend, to match their forwards and hopefully beat them with our backs," Sio said on Thursday.

Sio also hoped to improve on his five games since coming back to the NRL over the summer, saying the Knights' left edge had outperformed his side of the field.

His combination with Queensland State of Origin representative Dane Gagai has so far yielded just one try between them, compared to Ross and Mata'utia's seven.

"Hopefully it clicks this week or some time through the season. I need to get the ball to Dane Gagai to let him do his stuff," Sio said.

"There is a few combinations that are definitely going well especially on the left side and in the middle. Our halves are coming along nicely as well."

The Knights get Ross back from injury to take on the Bulldogs, while hooker Danny Levi has been named to start despite being asked to come off the bench last week.

For the Bulldogs, the match is coach Des Hasler's first since being given a two-year extension this week, and he gets halfback Moses Mbye back from suspension.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Canterbury have won their past three meetings against Newcastle - equalling their longest winning streak of all time against the Knights.

* Another loss for Newcastle would mean they become the first team in 30 years to win just six matches in a 50-game window.

* Canterbury have not scored a first-half point in their past two matches. They have not gone three straight games without a first-half point in the NRL era.

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