NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Round 5, 2014 NRL Premiership
Monday, April 7 Kick-Off: 7pm
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
Referees: Gerard Sutton and Dave Munro
Last Time They Met:
North Queensland recorded a 26-6 victory over Newcastle in Townsville in round 24 last season, while the Knights proved too strong at Hunter Stadium in round three with a dominant 34-6 victory.
Newcastle and North Queensland are locked at six wins each from 12 matches dating back to 2008. In Townsville, the Cowboys hold the advantage having won four of the past six clashes against the Knights.
Boyd, McManus, Gagai, Leilua, Uate, Dobson, Roberts, Snowden, Gidley (c), Mason, Scott, Rochow, Smith. Bench: Clydsdale, Sims, Cuthbertson, Fa’aolgo, Tetevano.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Morgan, Feldt, Tate, Linnett, Winterstein, Thurston, Lui, Scott, Kostjasyn, Tamou, Cooper, Taumalolo, T.Sims. Bench: Thompson, Hall, A.Sims, Bolton.
Newcastle improved their discipline and execution tenfold against Cronulla last Sunday and assistant coach Rick Stone believes the team must maintain that standard.
It's a challenge that starts with a tough away trip to Townsville to take on the Cowboys.
"Last week against the Sharks was good, particularly the first half," Stone says.
"We probably took a little bit of time to get going, but once we did our execution was good and that's something we'll have to continue."
Stone says the return of Darius Boyd at fullback made a significant difference against the Sharks.
As an Australian and Queensland representative, Boyd provides so much to the Knights in both attack and defence.
"Obviously the return of Darius was an important one there," he says.
"I think he definitely helped our defensive line and got us organised a little bit better.
"He also took a bit of pressure off our edges and got our numbers sorted out pretty well.
"He does a lot defensively that people don’t really notice too much and most fullbacks do that.
"But also in attack he is a ball player out the back and takes pressure off Tyrone and Dobbo as well.
"So there is plenty to like about Darius coming back into our team."
Speaking of good form, centre Joey Leilua was at his brilliant best against the Sharks with three first half tries.
Stone is looking forward to Leilua continuing his form against the Cowboys.
"Joey enjoyed his space and we targeted down that side and we had some joy down there," he says.
"He was pretty much unstoppable. He was really determined and keen for the contest.
"He also has a great knack of getting the football down as well, so he has a fair bit of skill that goes along with that."
The Knights got plenty of impact from their bench against Cronulla, with the likes of Korbin Sims (128m), Adam Cuthbertson (134m) and David Fa'ologo (101m) all making strong metres.
Stone was highly impressed with the performances of Sims, Cuthbertson and Fa'alogo and expects more of the same against the Cowboys on Monday.
"Cuthbo has been playing well for us in the NRL for a couple of weeks now," he says.
"Korbin got his first go on the weekend and I thought acquitted himself really well.
"He has got some small improvements to make no doubt, but he’ll enjoy the clash against his two brothers Tariq and Ashton.
"I think it will be the first time he has come up against them in an NRL game, so he will be looking forward to it."
Tyrone Roberts vs Johnathan Thurston
This match-up between the masters of the show-and-go should be an absolute cracker.
Thurston has long been the king of the devastating dummy, but Roberts has proven he is equally capable in this department.
Tyrone's try in last Sunday's win over Cronulla was attacking football at its best and Stone can't wait to see him line-up opposite arguably the best No.7 in the NRL in Thurston.
"JT has got a great running game and a good show-and-go himself," he says.
"So we’ll not be giving away our inside shoulder this week for sure.
"No dummies on JT and I suppose the coach will be saying the same thing about Tyrone.
"They are both good ball players and obviously their forwards provide the time and space that they need to work.
"So the platform set by the forwards is really going to be important.”
Willie Mason/Kade Snowden vs Matt Scott/James Tamou
Both Mason and Snowden set a strong platform against Cronulla and Stone has called on them to repeat that effort against the Cowboys.
"It will be a big challenge for the boys," he says.
"They were up for it on the weekend and Snowey and Mase probably had their best games for the year.
"It will be a good challenge against the two international props and up in Townsville at this time of the year is always still pretty humid.
"So it will be a tough task up there, but I’m sure the boys are looking forward to the challenge.
"They will take some confidence out of last weekend and look to take another significant step forward in their season."
Player to watch:
An emerging hooker in the mould of Club legend Danny Buderus, Clydsdale has impressed playing off the bench for the past two weeks.
Stone says the Club are in no rush to push the young No.9, but they are very happy with his form and contribution.
"His progression is good and he is coming along really well," he says.
"The coach is not playing him super big minutes just yet, but he is adding him into the game whenever he can.
"He is gaining invaluable experience every time he plays. He is not letting anyone down. He brings the boys onto the ball pretty well and he is a nice sound and tidy defender in the middle as well.
"His progression is good and it will continue to with more game time."
Where it will be won:
Matches are won in the forwards and this Monday's match against the Cowboys will be no different.
Newcastle's forwards led by Snowden and Mason fired against Cronulla last week, but they'll have to maintain that form to out perform Test props James Tamou and Matt Scott.
If the Knights can take control in the forwards, it will give space to the likes of Boyd, Leilua, Uate and Roberts to pile on the points and set up a win for the side in red and blue.