Andrew Pelechaty previews the Saturday night clash between North Queensland and Newcastle.
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Coen Hess 11. Jack Gosiewski 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Tomas Chester 15. Jake Granville 16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 17. Mitchell Dunn 18. Riley Price 19. Ben Hampton 20. Brendan Elliot 21. Taniela Sadrugu 22. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki
Knights: 1. Lachlan Miller 2. Dominic Young 3. Dane Gagai 4. Bradman Best 5. Greg Marzhew 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Jackson Hastings 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Phoenix Crossland 10. Leo Thompson 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Kurt Mann 14. Tyson Gamble 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Mathew Croker 17. Jack Hetherington 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Hymel Hunt 20. Jack Johns 21. Dylan Lucas 22. Adam Clune
Referee: Ben CumminsEmbed from Getty Images
This is a big clash between two surprising sides: but for different reasons.
North Queensland (2-5) have so far failed to back up their preliminary final appearance. Even their wins over Canberra and the Gold Coast were patchy. A three-try, 20 minute burst was enough to beat the Raiders 19-18, while they trailed the Titans 8-6 at half-time before scoring three second half tries to win 24-12.
Newcastle have weathered a horrific injury toll to win three, lose three, and draw one. They beat the Wests Tigers, the Raiders, the NZ Warriors and drew with Manly Warringah. They matched it with Penrith last start, leading 14-6 at half-time. Though they would have been disappointed to only score one more point in the next 41 minutes.
While this is a Cowboys home game, they’ve only won two from four at Queensland Country Bank Stadium this year. Compare that to nine home wins in 2022.
Newcastle’s record in Queensland is reasonable, with two wins from five last year (Canterbury-Bankstown in Magic Round and the Warriors in Redcliffe). But one of the losses was against the Cowboys in Townsville. The Knights’ last win against the Cowboys was a 38-0 thumping in 2021.
There’s a couple of potentially game-turning inclusions for this game: Jason Taumalolo is out for six weeks with a knee injury, replaced by Reuben Cotter. Meanwhile, Kalyn Ponga returns for Newcastle after a five-week absence. It’s also his 100th NRL game. As one of the game’s highest profile players, the pressure will be on him immediately. How will he respond after so much time away?
Based on current form, the Knights should have enough to beat the inconsistent Cowboys.
LAST TEN MATCHES
Cowboys 7, Knights 3
Knights by four points.
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