NRL Match Preview: Round 8
The red and blues get back on the road in Round 8, making the trip north to take on the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.
While the Cowboys side will be without the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville due to injury, they still have plenty of quality across the park.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Date: Saturday April 22
Gates open: 1pm
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
1. Brendan Elliot, 2. Ken Sio, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Peter Mata’utia, 5. Nathan Ross, 6. Brock Lamb, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 10. Josh Starling, 11. Sione Mata’utia, 12. Sam Stone, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Luke Yates, 15. Anthony Tupou, 16. Jack Stockwell, 17. Jacob Saifiti, 18. Jaelen Feeney, 19. Jacob Gagan, 20. Josh King, 21. Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. John Asiata, 7. Michael Morgan, 8. Patrick Kaufusi, 9. Blake Leary, 10. Scott Bolton, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Coen Hess, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton, 15. Ethan Lowe, 16. Ben Spina, 17. Corey Jensen, 18. Sam Hoare, 19. Ray Thompson, 20. Javid Bown, 21. Braden Uele.
Back on the road
After two weeks at home playing Friday night football, the Knights will be pulling on the white and blue stripes again this Saturday.
While the Club has had some close matches at home, the Knights have been pushing teams to the limit away from home as well.
In Round 5 the red and blues went down to Cronulla by a solitary point, while in Round 1 the team lost by four-points to the New Zealand Warriors.
The blip on the radar came against the Penrith Panthers in Round 4, and will be something that the team is desperate to avoid repeating this season.
“Last week the Cowboys showed in the second half without Johnathan, they can find their game,” coach Nathan Brown said.
“He obviously has a great impact on the team but I thought the second half the other day was very good from the Cowboys.”
While winter is steadily getting closer in Newcastle, in Townsville it is still expected to be 29 degrees and humid at kick off on Saturday.
It’s certainly cooler than if the team played there earlier in the year, but the players will still have to be ready to put in a shift in warmer conditions than they’re used to.
“We’re definitely not going to underestimate it,” Jacob Saifiti told Knights TV.
“It’s their territory, their weather and they’ll be used to that.”
The Knights have made more tackles than any other team apart from the Melbourne Storm so far this season, and that type of high intensity in defence won’t help in Townsville. Possession will be key.
2018 recruit Kalyn Ponga has been named at fullback for the Cowboys.
In the four games he’s played so far this season, Ponga has scored one try, averaged 156 metres and a highly impressive 24 tackle breaks.
“Hopefully he has a quiet day,” Brown joked.
“The second half last week he was quite outstanding for the Cowboys, he contributed a lot for them.”
Knights fullback Brendan Elliot is finding his feet in the custodian position as well, scoring two tries and making 14 tackle breaks in five games.
He is relatively inexperienced as well - with only 30 NRL games to his name - so it will be an intriguing battle between the two fullbacks.
THE FINAL SAY
“He is always tough to tackle,” Sam Stone said of Cowboys danger man Jason Taumalolo.
The New Zealand international has averaged a whopping 232 metres per game so far this season.
“I think tackling in numbers and having a few people helping you, that’s probably the biggest thing on him,” Stone explained.