Cowboys v Knights: Payten's side unchanged; O'Brien makes big calls

The Cowboys return home to Queensland Country Bank Stadium having strung three wins in a row and will fancy their chances against a Knights outfit who haven't scored a try in two games.

North Queensland have been the surprise packets of the 2022 season so far with halves Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden clicking behind a forward pack led by Cowboys powerhouse Jason Taumalolo, who has found his groove. 

Newcastle are reeling after heavy back-to-back defeats on home turf and on the back of a six-game losing streak, they now find themselves on the bottom of the ladder.

Injuries have hit the Knights with a host of stars due back in the next month but with a 2-6 start, Adam O'Brien's side need to find something in attack and defence before their season officially slips away.

Making matters more challenging, the Cowboys hold a five-game winning streak over the Knights in Townsville since 2015.

The Rundown
Team news

Cowboys: Todd Payten has named an unchanged line-up for Saturday's clash with the backline remaining the same and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to come off the bench after a super-sub effort last week. Reuben Cotter and Tom Gilbert earned starts against the Eels and are in line to do so again on home turf. Jake Granville is listed in the reserves alongside Jamayne Taunoa-Brown with the pair on standby.

Knights: Mass changes for the under-fire Hunter club. Tex Hoy replaces Jake Clifford at five-eighth after the former Cowboy was benched midway through the second half in last week's loss to the Storm. Adam Clune (knee) has been replaced by Phoenix Crossland. Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Dom Young have been named to return from knee injuries, replacing Simi Sasagi and Brodie Jones in the 17. Kurt Mann (ankle) remains on the sidelines with Leo Thompson named to start at lock. The new faces on the bench are Mat Croker and Pasami Saulo. There we no further changes in the 24-hour update. 

Key match-up
Valentine Holmes v Enari Tuala: The battle of the centres will be a highlight for the match with Maroons representative Holmes lining up against former Cowboy Tuala in the centres. It's the first time Tuala has played in the centres since round 18, 2021, while Holmes is continuing to learn his trade in the role after a permanent switch this year.

Stat attack
Newcastle's inability to score points has been well-documented in recent weeks and it all starts in the middle. The Knights have had two strong seasons with their forward pack punching out huge numbers but injuries and suspensions are playing a big part in the lack of yardage this year. Newcastle's 11,254 metres from eight rounds ranks 14th in the competition with middle men David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti and Jacob Saifiti struggling to replicate their efforts from previous seasons. The Cowboys have no such struggle with the side ranked third in the competition for yardage overall.


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