NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Round 15, 2014 NRL Premiership
Monday, June 23
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Referees: Matt Cecchin & Henry Perenara
Last Time They Met:
The Cowboys charged to a comfortable 28-2 victory over the Knights in Round 5 this season.
North Queensland hold the edge over Newcastle, having recorded seven wins from their past 13 matches against the Knights dating back to 2008.
1. Darius Boyd, 2. James McManus, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. David Fa’alogo, 9. Kurt Gidley (c), 10. Willie Mason, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Bench: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Korbin Sims, 17. Chris Houston, 18. Joseph Tapine.
1. Michael Morgan, 2. Matthew Wright, 3. Brent Tate, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. Johnathan Thurston (c), 7. Ray Thompson, 8. Matt Scott (c), 9. Rory Kostjasyn, 10. James Tamou, 11. Ethan Lowe, 12. Tariq Sims, 13. Scott Bolton. Bench: 14. Robert Lui, 15. Glenn Hall, 16. Ashton Sims, 17. Jason Taumalolo.
Newcastle may have been comprehensively beaten the last time they played North Queensland in Round 5, but assistant coach Rick Stone remains confident the Knights can topple the Cowboys at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
"I like our chances against the Cowboys, especially when their record away from home isn’t that flash either," Stone says.
"We'll both have players backing up from Origin, but both teams will be in the same boat and we need a win."
As difficult as this season has been for the Knights, Stone says the players are remaining confident.
"Obviously they are pretty disappointed, but I think our energy and focus to win games is still there which is really important," he says.
"We’ve just got to keep believing that if we keep working hard, then things will change for us.
"I know it’s an old cliché, but it’s a truthful one.
"Sometimes you can get down in the dumps and keep spiralling in the wrong direction, but we need to bounce back and start spiralling in the right direction."
Jarrod Mullen vs Johanthan Thurston
This match-up will go a long way to deciding this game.
Thurston will be hurting after Queensland's Origin loss and keen to fire against the Knights, while the men in red and blue desperately need Mullen to stand up and lead them to a much needed win.
Both players are equally skilled in the ball playing and kicking game department, so the momentum built from their respective forward packs could decide this one.
Joey Leilua vs Kane Linnett
Leilua returns from a throat injury to take on consistent North Queensland centre Linnett.
Stone says the Samoan World Cup representative adds plenty to the Knights' line-up.
"Joey is great for us," he beams.
"He adds a bit of strike to us and definitely gets some quick play the balls in yardage and can score some points.
"He has also been defending quite well and he is a player of the future, a good all round player to have on that left-edge."
Darius Boyd vs Michael Morgan
Boyd is buzzing at the prospect of taking on the Cowboys, especially after Wednesday night's disappointing loss playing for Queensland.
The Brisbane-born fullback lines up opposite Michael Morgan, a half who has made the No.1 jumper his own in Townsville.
Morgan got the better of Boyd back in Round 5, but you can expect this to change at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
Player to watch:
Stone was highly impressed with Clydsdale's starting performance against the Roosters last Saturday night.
"Adam has been playing a second-fiddle role to Kurt for most of the year, but he played a few more minutes against the Roosters last week.
"I thought he handled himself pretty well and handled the ruck well, while his defence was tidy."
Where it will be won:
Led by the freakish skills of Thurston and the raw power of Kangaroo props Tamou and Scott, North Queensland is among the most potent teams in the NRL competition.
With this in mind, the Knights must limit their recent run of mistakes to get the two competition points on Monday.
Both sides will be affected by Wednesday night's epic Origin clash, so it will be interesting to see which stars back up the best.
The Knights desperately need a win and this is an ideal chance to do so on home turf.
Watch for forwards Willie Mason, Beau Scott and co to set a strong precedent up front, before exciting backs Leilua, Uate and Gagai put on the finishing touches with some vital points.