NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS NYC
Date: 4.45pm, Monday 7 April
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Live updates: twitter.com/nthqldcowboys
Referee: Michael Gordon
Touch judges: Chris Nitsopoulous, Tyson Brough
Main game: 7pm
Cowboys: 1 Alex Grant, 2 Hayden Crowley, 3 Lenny Magey, 4 Samsen O’Neill, 5 Scott Schulte, 6 Aaron Solari, 7 Delayne Ashby, 8 Halvor Harris, 9 Josh Chudleigh, 10 David Munro, 11 Jack Kelleher (c), 12 Bill Cullen, 13 Andrew Niemoeller. Interchange: 14 Dan Clarke, 15 Corey Jensen, 16 Jack Brock, 17 Michael Barclay.
Knights: 1. Jake Mamo 2. Bryce Donovan 3. Sione Mata'utia 4. Chance Peni 5. Josh Birch 6. Jacob Gagai 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Jah Pakau 9. Danny Levi 10. Luke Yates 11. Joseph Tapine 12. Harry Pondekas 13. Lachlan Fitzgibbon. Interchange: 14. James De Saxe 15. Bradie Smith 16. Joe Boyce 17. Tama Koopu 18. Nathan Lo Monaco.
RECENT HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Cowboys turned around a 22-0 deficit to beat the Knights 30-22 in their last meeting at 1300SMILES Stadium, round 24 last year. It completed a season double against Newcastle following on from a 26-20 victory at Hunter Stadium. North Queensland has a clear lead in the overall head-to-head, winning eight of the 12 matches they have played against Newcastle, with one draw.
FORM GUIDE: The Cowboys ended a two-game losing streak by staging a remarkable recovery to beat the winless Gold Coast Titans 36-34 on Monday night. With two wins and two losses, they're only outside the top eight on for and against after the first month of the season. The ladder-leading Knights, coached by former Cowboys assistant coach Mick Crawley, have won four in a row and are coming off a 56-10 flogging of Cronulla on Sunday afternoon. It’s their best ever start to an NYC season.
KEY STAT: Not only are the Knights sitting on top of the table, they have a whopping +114 points for and against margin. That’s an average winning margin of an impressive 28.5 points per game.
WHO’S NEW FOR NQ: There’s a debut coming for 18-year-old front-rower Michael Barclay, who built a fine representative record during his school and junior football career. The highlights for the 188cm, 113kg Sydney-born forward were tours with the Australian Schoolboys and Australian Institute of Sport. He still has another couple of years of under-20s football ahead of him after this one. Monday is also the home debut for five-eighth Aaron Solari who represented himself well against the Titans.
WHO’S NEW FOR THE KNIGHTS: Hooker Nathan Lo Monaco has been added to an extended bench.
COWBOY TO WATCH: Hooker Josh Chudleigh was outstanding in the Cowboys’ second-half fightback against the Titans and was responsible for the match-winning try in the final five minutes – a run from dummy-half where it looked like he'd be held up over the line before he managed to twist his way free to get the ball down near the posts.
THE KNIGHTS’ DANGER: Goalkicking winger Bryce Donovan had a personal tally of 20 points from a try and eight goals against Cronulla at the weekend. "He has been good for us each week," coach Mick Crawley said. "He turns most of our four-point tries into six, so that makes a big difference.”
THE COWBOYS’ FINAL SAY – COACH TODD WILSON:
It’s an exciting challenge this week against the undefeated Knights for our NYC boys.
Defence will be the key.
They are strong in the hooker, halves and fullback position and we are going to need to be much more committed defensively this week if we are to build any pressure and limit their go-forward.
We’ll focus heavily on our composure when presented with opportunities in their half and our execution will need to be spot on.
A quality kicking game and effective ends to sets from our halves will be required.
Our last home game against the Warriors was not pretty and the boys will be preparing for a much improved and consistent performance this week.