NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS – NYC ROUND 15
Date: 4.45pm, Monday 23 June
Venue: Hunter Stadium
Live updates: twitter.com/nthqldcowboys
Referee: Brett Suttor
Touch judges: Luke Potter, Jon Stone
Main game: 7pm
COWBOYS: 1. Yamba Bowie 2. Samsen O'Neill 3. Lenny Magey 4. Conor Carey 5. Scott Schulte 6. Delayne Ashby 7. Cooper Bambling 8. Viliame Kikau 9. Josh Chudleigh 10. Jack Kelleher 11. Coen Hess 12. Corey Jensen 13. David Munro. Interchange: 14. Dan Clarke 15. Andrew Niemoeller 16. Regan Greive 17. Michael Barclay.
KNIGHTS: 1. Bryce Donovan 2. Braden Robson 3. Sione Mata'utia 4. Chance Peni 5. Josh Birch 6. Jacob Gagai 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Tuiala Togitasi 9. Danny Levi 10. Luke Yates 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Harry Pondekas 13. Joe Boyce. Interchange: 14. James De Saxe 15. Pride Petterson-Robati 16. James Taylor 17. Jah Pakau.
RECENT HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Cowboys won at Hunter Stadium last year as part of a season double against the Knights, however in round five this season, the Knights prevailed 32-16 after leading 22-0 at half time. North Queensland have a clear lead in the overall head-to-head, winning eight of the 13 matches they have played against Newcastle, with one draw.
FORM GUIDE: The Cowboys had scored back-to-back wins against Canberra (away) and Melbourne (home) before being outgunned 48-22 by ladder leaders Parramatta in their last appearance. Newcastle were competition leaders before they suffered three straight defeats – a sequence they ended by downing the Roosters 28-24 on Sunday.
HOME AND AWAY: The Knights have won three of their four home matches this year with their one defeat coming against Wests Tigers (28-22) two weeks ago. North Queensland have been pretty good on the road in 2014, winning three out of six.
KEY STAT: Once this match is done, the Cowboys will have played the top three teams in the under-20s the full quota of six times this year. They are currently 0-5 against Parramatta, Newcastle and Brisbane.
WHO’S NEW FOR NQ: Samsen O’Neill has been recalled by the Cowboys and will start on the wing in place of Rainer Power, while Delayne Ashby takes over at five-eighth from Alex Grant who was granted a contract release on Tuesday. Josh Chudleigh is back at hooker after serving his two-match suspension.
COWBOY TO WATCH: Fijian forward Viliame Kikau has consolidated his position in the starting front-row by developing into his team’s most reliable go-forward option, as well as being a danger close to the try line. He takes a three-game try-scoring streak into round 15.
THE KNIGHTS’ DANGER: Centre Sione Mata’utia is expected to back up after playing for the NSW under-18s against Queensland in the State of Origin curtain-raiser. In his last club game, the 17-year-old scored a try and ran for an impressive 161 metres in attack.
THE COWBOYS’ FINAL SAY – COACH TODD WILSON:
Another quality opponent in Newcastle this week and a challenge that we will be prepared for.
The young Knights team is strong right across the park.
They possess a hard-working pack, elusive halves and outside backs that carry the ball well.
They have a very strong interchange bench which our interchange men will have to battle, especially in that important period leading in to half time.
The bye week has allowed us to work specifically on some areas of our game that needed extra attention and defence has been a major focus in that time.
Dallas Johnson has spent some time with the squad, passing on his knowledge and expertise in that area.
At the end of the day, defence is about attitude and the willingness to do whatever it takes to deny the opposition momentum and ultimately points.
The final make-up of our team will hinge on a couple of lingering injuries as well as the health of our boys who played in the interstate Under 18’s game on Wednesday night.
In recent weeks, Yamba Bowie has impressed with his work at the back, as has big Viliame up front with his speed and footwork.
Mick Barclay had his best game to date against the Eels and continues to improve each week as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the NYC.
We welcome back Samsen O’Neill on the wing and expect him to have a positive impact on the game as will Josh Chudleigh at hooker.
This week requires a confident, positive approach as we test ourselves against one of the most consistent teams in the competition this year.