The nib Newcastle Knights will be looking to go back-to-back on Saturday afternoon when they face the North Queensland Cowboys at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Cowboys winger Connelly Lemuelu (shoulder) and second-rower Mitch Dunn (groin) have both been ruled out, with Tom Opacic and Jordan McLean both named to start.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Date: Saturday, June 27
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium
FOLLOW THE ACTION
If you can't catch the game on TV or radio, the Knights will be blogging the game at newcastleknights.com.au.
Fitz: Injury return, travel, Cows challenge
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Gehamat Shibasaki, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. David Klemmer, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Sione Mata'utia, 13. Tim Glasby, 14. Tex Hoy, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Herman Ese'ese, 17. Aidan Guerra, 19. Tautau Moga, 21. Pasami Saulo
1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Esan Marsters, 18. Tom Opacic, 6. Scott Drinkwater, 7. Jake Clifford, 8. Josh McGuire, 9. Reece Robson, 20. Jordan McLean, 19. Shane Wright, 12. Coen Hess, 13. Jason Taumalolo (c). INTERCHANGE: 10. Francis Molo, 14. Ben Hampton, 15. Gavin Cooper, 16. Peter Hola.
Crossing the Queensland border for the first time this season, the Knights will be out to post their first win in Townsville since 2015.
Managing seven wins from 19 appearances at the Cowboys’ former home ground, the Knights will be hoping their first visit to Queensland Country Bank Stadium brings about a change in fortune.
Gehm: Accountability and competition for spots
Providing plenty of punch through the middle over the opening six rounds, Daniel and Jacob Saifiti have been two of the Knights’ best performers this season.
Claiming man of the match honours against Brisbane last week, starting prop Daniel has laid the platform for the side’s best start to a season in almost two decades, averaging 170 metres per game while crossing for two tries through sheer strength and determination.
Returning to form after struggling with injuries over the past two years, Jacob has been a shining light off the bench running for more than 100 metres in all bar one game, along with progressively increasing his minutes with each performance.
DEFENDING THE LINE
In spite of averaging close to 25 points per game with the ball, the driving force behind the Knights’ resurgence has been the defensive resolve instilled by coach Adam O’Brien.
Conceding just over two tries per game to rank seventh in defence, the Knights have been especially strong during the final 20 minutes of matches conceding only one try during the loss to Melbourne.
Coming up against a Cowboys team capable of scoring plenty of points, the Knights will need to remain vigilant as they fight to return to the top of the premiership ladder.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
The Knights have led at halftime in each of their wins this season.
Kalyn Ponga has converted 20/27 goals this season for a 74% success rate.
COWBOYS STAT ATTACK
Saturday will be the first time the Cowboys have hosted a daytime match in three years.
Kyle Feldt has scored 8 tries this season - the most of any player in the premiership.