The ANZAC Round continues as two towns, both known for their enormous efforts in both World Wars, will fight it out this Saturday afternoon in Townsville. The Knights have played well without results and are currently sitting at the bottom of the ladder with just one win. The Cowboys have drifted down to the bottom of the eight on the back of injuries to half their salary cap. Now with John Asiata starting his second game in the biggest boots to fill for any side, the Cowboys will be hosting a side with a never say die attitude who have stolen one of the hosts most valuable rookies. The temperature up north has dropped, but the heat is on.
LAST TIME OUT
In a tale of two halves we saw the Cowboys head in to the sheds at half time, with the commentators already penning obituaries. But a second half, freed from the doubt of the player he replaced, saw John Asiata open up his shoulders and provide the go forward and structure the first half lacked. They fell just short, but this was against the ladder leaders and they fought back well whilst keeping them off the scoreboard. Was it a gutsy effort that may help define a season, the Cowboys will be wanting to work off the back of this effort as the season rolls on.
For the Knights, it was again a game that highlighted what they are missing as a side that wants to progress to the post season. They were well held by the Roosters and yet seemed to never be really out of the game. Coach Nathan Brown must be wondering what they need to do, as it is not the lack of effort from his side, but just the little things that are costing them game after game. This brings even more pressure to the struggling side who have at least unearthed a good player in Nathan Ross.
Michael Morgan has always looked the goods, and yet even he would be acknowledging that his recent play has not been up to his own high standards. In this game, he faces up against Trent Hodkinson, a player that will take any opportunity to unsettle his opponent. How Morgs can handle the niggle, and in turn force the errors that Trent has been guilty of in his own game in recent weeks, will be the decider for this contest.
Also of interest will be how Brendan Elliot faces off against his Million Dollar replacement in Kalyn Ponga. Whilst Ponga has not been the excitement machine of last year’s finals, his game has started to look better and he will be looking to carry on the game he finished down in Wollongong.
Glad I am not a gambling man, this game with JT would be an easy win penciled in, but two major factors are in play. First of all, Thurston is absent and more importantly, secondly is that the 1300 Smiles Stadium has not been the best home ground for the Cowboys this season. The fortress that was one of the most feared trips has been breached twice in recent games, with losses that led to the Sea Eagles becoming a threat and to the Tigers, who peaked for the new coach.
On pure form, the second half of the Dragons game gives me more reasons to choose the Cowboys than the performance at home by the Knights. But it will not be the shellacking that many would have expected at the start of the year, and it would not surprise me to see the Knights join the teams that have left Townsville with points. But on form, the Cowboys are still the favoured side. Cowboys by 6.
Cowboys: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett,
5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. John Asiata, 7. Michael Morgan, 8. Patrick Kaufusi, 9. Blake Leary, 10. Scott Bolton, 11. Gavin Cooper (c), 12. Coen Hess, 13. Jason Taumalolo, Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton, 15. Ethan Lowe, 16. Ben Spina, 17. Corey Jensen, 18. Sam Hoare, 19. Ray Thompson, 20. Javid Bowen, 21. Braden Uele
Knights: 1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross,
6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson (c), 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling,
11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Mitchell Barnett, Interchange: 14. Luke Yates
15. Anthony Tupou, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Jaelen Feeney, 19. Jacob Gagan, 20. Josh King, 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon.