The nib Newcastle Knights will be looking to make it three-in-a-row when they host the North Queensland Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Cowboys pair Reece Robson (hamstring) and Emry Pere (back) have both been ruled out, with Reuben Cotter to start at hooker and Jake Granville to come onto the bench after the club received an exemption from the NRL.
Justin O’Neill returns from a knee injury and slots into the centres, with Corey Jensen added to the bench.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Date: Sunday, August 23
Venue: McDonald Jones 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.
Both teams have been confirmed ahead of today's game.
There are a raft of changes for the Cowboys, with Reece Robson (hamstring) and Emry Pere (back) both ruled out.
Rueben Cotter will start at hooker while Justin O'Neill returns from a knee injury in the centres.
Shane Wright and Jake Clifford have dropped off the extended bench one hour prior to kick off.
Meanwhile, the Knights are 1-17, with no changes made to the side named on Tuesday night.
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Starford To'a, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Gehamat Shibasaki, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Blake Green, 7. Mitchell Pearce (c), 8. David Klemmer, 9. Kurt Mann, 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Aidan Guerra, 13. Mitch Barnett. Interchange: 14. Phoenix Crossland, 15. Herman Ese'ese, 16. Josh King, 17. Pasami Saulo.
1. Scott Drinkwater, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Tom Opacic, 22. Justin O'Neill, 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 6. Ben Hampton, 7. Michael Morgan, 8. Josh McGuire, 14. Reuben Cotter, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Mitch Dunn, 12. Coen Hess, 13. Jason Taumalolo (c). Interchange: 15. John Asiata, 17. Francis Molo, 20. Corey Jensen, 21. Jake Granville.
GOING FOR THREE
After recording back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening fortnight, the Knights will be out to extend their winning run to three in a row.
Fighting back from an early 12-0 deficit against their archrivals last week, the side showed plenty of resilience to secure the result through the combined efforts of former North Queensland duo Enari Tuala and Kalyn Ponga.
Having struggled to back up wins since the season resumption, coach Adam O’Brien will be hopeful the side has turned the corner as they head into the final weeks of the regular season.
BREAKING THE DROUGHT
In a season that has seen a number of the Knights’ big men cross for tries, two of the side’s highest-profile forwards will be hoping Sunday afternoon is their day to get on the board.
Leading the way up front with 175 metres each week, forward David Klemmer has created plenty of attacking opportunities in 2020 with 36 offloads - but has yet to score a try in 35 appearances for the club.
Establishing a reputation as a try-scoring second rower a few years ago, Lachlan Fitzgibbon will be looking to add to the side’s potent left edge attack alongside Enari Tuala and Starford To’a.
Enduring a horror afternoon in Townsville earlier this season, the Knights will be fully aware of the threat posed by their lowly opponents.
Stunning the Knights 32-20 off the back of a dominant first half performance in June, the Cowboys have proven too strong for the Knights in recent years with five wins from the past six meetings.
Having already underestimated the Cowboys once this season, the Knights will need to contain the star power of Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan if they hope to come away with two premiership points.
KNIGHTS STAT ATTACK
The Knights have led at half-time in all their wins this season.
Kalyn Ponga is ranked third in the league for tackle breaks (84).
COWBOYS STAT ATTACK
The Cowboys haven’t won a match since defeating the Knights 32-20 back in Round 7.
Jason Taumalolo leads the NRL in running metres (2,890) and post-contact metres (1,218).
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