Cormac Pearson previews the Saturday afternoon clash between the desperate Knights and the out-of-form Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Since Round 13 the Knights have won one game, throwing their finals chances into disarray. The Novacastrians have been unable to find their form post-Origin as the sun may be starting to set on their 2019 run. They’ll need to win all their remaining games to stay alive at 12th, but with their current form it isn’t looking likely.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys have come off a gut-wrenching loss to Broncos with many questioning how they let them back into the game. They continue to fall out of games in decisive moments, which has cost them a number of wins over the season as their finals hopes fade. They’re now playing for pride – sitting at 13th – but will want a win just as badly as the next.
Tim Glasby misses this week with a concussion and will be replaced by Josh King at lock, with Ese’ese moving onto the bench. Connor Watson moves into the hooking role with Danny Levi moving to the reserves.
Newcastle Knights’ squad: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kurt Mann 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Tautau Moga 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Josh King 14. Jacob Saifiti 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. Sione Mata’utia 17. Aidan Guerra 18. Jamie Buhrer 19. Chris Randall 20. Jirah Momoisea 21. Danny Levi.
North Queensland Cowboys
Josh McGuire is out, handed a contrary conduct charge, and Gideon Gela-Mosby comes out for Jordan Kahu as coach Paul Green again opts for Coen Hess in the centres.
North Queensland Cowboys’ squad: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Coen Hess 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Reuben Cotter 15. John Asiata 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Peter Hola 19. Tom Gilbert 20. Corey Jensen 21. Murray Taulagi.
HEAD TO HEAD
If you cast your memory back you will remember the two sides had some fierce battles, especially between former Knight Beau Scott and Cowboys legend Jonathan Thurston. Scott was known to get into Thurston which sparked some strict words from his Cowboys team mates. Since then the Cowboys have dominated the Knights, winning four out of their last five appearances. Last time they met the Cowboys were down 18-6 at halftime but a JT-inspired comeback and a late Gavin Cooper try gave the Cowboys a 20-18 win at 1300SMILES Stadium. Kalyn Ponga will hope to inflict more pain to the club who lost his signature a few years ago.
This Saturday will bring two big men together with Knight David Klemmer going head-to-head with Jordan McLean. David Klemmer is arguably the NRL’s current best front rower and the big man has been a workhorse in recent games. Last week against the Eels he led his side in running metres and tackles made, while he has averaged a strong 176 metres in 2019. He leads from the front and through his actions, and will need to inspire his fellow Knights if they are to win on Saturday.
Jordan McLean was in Origin discussion before he signed for the Cowboys but injury disruptions have plagued him since his arrival in Townsville. In 2019 McLean has averaged 130 metres per game, alongside 24 tackle breaks, but will be aiming to get that number up over the closing weeks of this season. Alongside veteran Matt Scott, the vice captain will need to stamp his authority to get the bragging rights over his NSW opposite.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: August 17, 2019
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-off: 3pm AEST
Referee: Grant Atkins & Phil Henderson
WHO WILL WIN?
Two sides absolutely desperate to win should produce an entertaining game of footy. I think the Knights at home will have to much to play for and just get the edge over the Cowboys.
Knights by four.