The nib Newcastle Knights will host the North Queensland Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium this Saturday in a must-win game to keep their finals chances alive.
Coming off the back of a 10-6 win against the Warriors, the Knights will be looking to secure a second consecutive win.
The nib Newcastle Knights are closely monitoring and responding appropriately to the situation with Coronavirus (Covid-19) and advice provided by the NSW Government.
To protect the people of NSW from the evolving COVID-19 situation the NSW Government has imposed a 50 per cent seated capacity restriction to all outdoor seated, ticketed events.
Meanwhile, North Queensland went down 24-26 to the Sharks in the last round and will also view the clash as a vital game for their finals hopes.
This is your Ultimate Guide to the Newcastle Knights Round 16 clash with the North Queensland Cowboys, brought to you by Mine Super.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Date: Saturday July 3, 2021
Gates Open: 6:05pm
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Dominic Young, 3. Kurt Mann, 4. Enari Tuala, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Jake Clifford, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Jacob Saifiti, 9. Jayden Brailey (c), 10. Daniel Saifiti (c), 11. Mitch Barnett, 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Sauaso Sue. Interchange: 14. Connor Watson, 15. David Klemmer, 16. Josh King, 17. Brodie Jones. Extended Bench: 18. Jack Johns, 20. Simi Sasagi.
Coach: Adam O'Brien
1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Javid Bowen, 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 5. Murray Taulagi, 6. Scott Drinkwater, 7. Tom Dearden, 16. Lachlan Burr, 9. Reece Robson, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Shane Wright, 12. Mitchell Dunn, 13. Jason Tuamalolo (c). Interchange: 8. Coen Hess, 14. Jake Granville, 17. Francis Molo, 21. Heilum Luki. Extended Bench: 18. Peter Hola, 19. Daejarn Asi.
Coach: Todd Payton
LATE MAIL: Lachlan Burr comes into the starting side with Coen Hess moving back to the bench.
UPDATE: Tom Gilbert and Connelly Lemuelu are the two Cowboys players to drop off the team sheet, with Helium Luki promoted to the bench for the trip south.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Crossland and Jirah Momoisea have been cut from the Knights' squad.
EARLIER: Knights Head Coach, Adam O'Brien, has confirmed his squad for this week's Round 16 clash with North Queensland at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Kalyn Ponga has been named to make his long-awaited return at fullback, pushing Kurt Mann back to the centres.
Brodie Jones moves back to the bench, with Jack Johns making way and shuffling to the reserves.
Daniel Saifiti will back up from another strong Origin performance in the front row, with Jacob Saifiti lining up alongside him.
The rest of the side is unchanged from the one which took down the Warriors in Round 15.
As a result of Newcastle’s win against the Warriors, the team are sitting in 12th spot but remain only two points outside of the eight.
The result snapped a two-game run of defeats while notching their sixth win of the season.
On the other side, the Cowboys have lost three out of their past five games to slip to ninth and will eye off a chance to return to the finals spots.
After going down to the Cowboys 36-20 in Round 11, the Knights will be looking to return serve in front of a COVID-capacity home crowd.
However, the Knights won the previous game at McDonald Jones Stadium against the Cowboys with a 12-0 result last season.
Jake Clifford v Scott Drinkwater
A key battle between two crafty playmakers will take place on Saturday.
Former halves partners Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater are set to collide in key positions on the field.
Clifford arrived to the Knights from the Cowboys only a month ago and will have a point to prove against his former team.
The new recruit will look to outperform his ex-teammate, who has an average of 204 kicking metres this season compared to Clifford’s 480 since joining the Knights.
The Cowboys haven’t won a game in Newcastle since 2015 having lost the last two games.
Jayden Brailey is runner up in the NRL tackle count with 728, averaging just over 48 tackles a game compared to the Cowboys Reece Robson who is currently 10th in the tackle count.
The Knights have scored 44 tries this season compared to 51 tries by the Cowboys.
The Knights will look to exploit the North Queensland defence with the Cowboys sitting third for missed tackles in the NRL with 492 and fourth for ineffective tackles.
The Knights will need to contain Cowboys fullback Valentine Holmes who sits second in the NRL for kick return metres this season with 963 metres.