2021 NRL Round 16 Preview, Knights Vs Cowboys

Julian Vella previews this Saturday night clash between the Knights and Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, Date: Saturday, 3rd July, Time: 7:35pm AEST

Knights Team

1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Dominic Young
3. Kurt Mann
4. Enari Tuala
5. Hymel Hunt
6. Jake Clifford
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Jacob Saifiti
9. Jayden Brailey
10. Daniel Saifiti
11. Mitch Barnett
12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon
13. Sauaso Sue
14. Connor Watson
15. David Klemmer
16. Josh King
17. Brodie Jones
18. Jack Johns
19. Phoenix Crossland
20. Simi Sasagi
21. Jorah Momoisea

Team Changes

IN: Kalyn Ponga, Phoenix Crossland, Simi Sasagi, Jirah Momoisea
OUT: Tex Hoy

Cowboys Team

1. Valentine Holmes
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Javid Bowen
4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5. Murray Taulagi
6. Scott Drinkwater
7. Tom Dearden
8. Coen Hess
9. Reece Robson
10. Jordan McLean
11. Shane Wright
12. Mitchell Dunn
13. Jason Taumalolo
14. Jake Granville
15. Tom Gilbert
16. Lachlan Burr
17. Francis Molo
18. Peter Hola
19. Daejarn Asi
20. Connelly Lemuelu
21. Heilum Luki

Team Changes

IN: Connelly Lemuelu, Heilum Luki, Peter Hola

Referee: Chris Sutton



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Newcastle will feel refreshed as they head into this Round 16 clash following a weeks break. They will also feel good about themselves after securing a tight 10-6 victory over the Warriors in their last outing. This ended a two-game losing streak for the Knights who are now walking the finals tight rope, needing to win six of their final nine outings to book a spot in September.

The returns of Mitchell Pearce, Hymel Hunt and David Klemmer helped lift the Knights to victory over the Warriors. They’ll be hoping that the return of another big gun can again prove the difference against the Cowboys. Star-fullback Kalyn Ponga has again been named to make his return from a troublesome groin injury that has kept him out for seven weeks, the noise coming out of the club this week though sounds like they are a lot more confident this will finally be the week KP takes the field.


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After a rough start to the season where the Cowboys lost their first four matches, the men from North Queensland then enjoyed one of the better runs of form seen by the club in recent years, as they won six of their next eight matches. But Todd Payten’s side have now lost that winning feeling, their last win coming on the 28th of May in Round 12 against the Warriors.

Two byes in June has meant they’ve only played two matches since their last win, so although it’s hardly cause for panic the Cowboys need to get that winning feeling back if they themselves want to secure a first finals berth since the 2017 Grand Final. The Cowboys are pretty much full strength heading into this clash, with only Ben Hampton still side-lined with injury.

Payten will be missing from the Cowboys squad who will fly-in, fly-out under the level 4 NRL biosecurity protocols. He was deemed a close contact of a COVID positive case who attended Townsville Markets. The squad will need to return negative COVID tests before taking their place in the game.


Although we’ve only just passed the halfway mark of the season and head into the first games of July, this match is crucial to both clubs and although it might sound absurd to say: this match is a must win for both clubs if they want to play finals footy in 2021. The Cowboys sit two points above the Knights due to having their bye already, but with Knights getting their bye next week, this clash will be considered a four-point match for both clubs.

With both teams facing a number of top sides in the run home, losing a match like this, to a rival who is also fighting it out for a finals berth would be catastrophic to the prospects of their season. Especially for the Cowboys who have a tougher run which includes matches against the Rabbitohs, Storm, Roosters, Eels, Dragons and Manly.

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The Cowboys will take confidence into this clash from their last outing against the Knights, which was only four matches ago, on that occasion the Cowboys ran riot down the Knights’ troublesome right edge defence, with winger Murray Taulagi scoring a hat-trick on that night. Whilst Newcastle will feel more comfortable with veteran winger Hymel Hunt back matching up against Taulagi, they’ll have to deal with a new threat down that side, flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

The ‘Hammer’ was absent in these previous meeting, but after a couple of matches back from injury he’s ready to get into full flight, and the Knights will no doubt be wary of the threat of Taulagi and Tabaui-Fidow down their right side. Fullback Valentine Holmes will also be looking for a big game after a forgettable performance in Origin II.

The Knights will also be welcoming back a weapon of their own in former Cowboy Ponga who is apparently raring to go after impressing the coaching staff at training during the week. The Knights who have struggled for points in 2021 with only the Broncos and Bulldogs scoring less than them so far, they will be hoping KP can reignite their attack and form a good combination with yet another former Cowboy in Jake Clifford.

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In a sign of the times these days where things move quickly and players move clubs even quicker, Clifford was facing up for the Cowboys against the Knights in that clash earlier this year, now after sealing a move down to the Hunter, Clifford will be hoping to show his old club and coach what they’re missing out on.

The Knights last win against the Warriors came on the back off Clifford’s tremendous kicking game, and he’ll be looking to again control the match and field position with another astute display with the boot. While the Cowboys have the fire power out wide with Taulagi, Tabuai-Fidow and Holmes, Newcastle will again look to play a conservative game and dominate with their big pack of forwards and Clifford’s kicking game.


The Cowboys currently hold the wood over the Knights in recent meetings, winning six of the last eight meetings between the clubs. If you go back even further the Cowboys dominance is even greater having won 11 of the last 16 matches dating back to 2010.


Going into last week both of these clubs faced identical situations coming up against opponents fighting it out in the race for a finals spot. Whilst the Knights got it done in a torrid affair against the Warriors, the Cowboys fell short in an entertaining clash against the Sharks. This game could go either way, but the home advantage could see the Knights home in another close game. Knights 1-12 

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