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The Newcastle Knights have come away with their equal-biggest victory over the North Queensland Cowboys by 36 points at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights, who snapped a six-match losing streak in the process of winning the game, were dominant almost from start to finish.
A Jake Clifford try on the back of a mountain of Cowboys possession in the first half gave them some life, but their attack was poor and defence non-existent at times as Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga enjoyed a field day with the ball in hand.
Ponga and Pearce both had try-scoring doubles, but the writing was on the wall for the Cowboys after a pair of tries in the first ten minutes and another on the stroke of halftime, before they bolted away during the second half.
The kicking game of Pearce and Mason Lino was spot on, their forwards dominated the battle for possession and territory, and while not clinical for the entire game, the home side did more than enough to grab a big win which keeps their season and pursuit of finals footy alive.
The Newcastle Knights will need something of a miracle to play finals footy, and it must start with a big win over the struggling, understrength North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday afternoon. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 3pm (AEST)
There is no sugar coating just how bad the last eight weeks have been for the Knights. They have lost seven of those games, including all of their last six, and shockingly poor performances against Parramatta and Manly in the last fortnight have all but sunk their season.
They find themselves four points out of the eight, and while four wins from four in the last month of the season could buy them access to the finals, even that would take other results going their way.
Still, it’s gotten to the point where Newcastle need to give their loyal fans something to cheer about, and the situation is ripe for an ambush-style situation on Saturday.
The Cowboys arrive in the Hunter with an ordinary record at the venue, a shocking season under their belt, finals chances gone and two of their best forwards on the sideline.
They were involved in one of the worst games of the season against the Brisbane Broncos last weekend, and now will be without Josh McGuire and Jason Taumalolo for the trip to the Hunter.
Even when they have dominated the game in terms of possession and territory, they have often struggled to put the pieces together in attack, so spending more time on the back foot will only make it worse.
Newcastle’s forwards haven’t been anywhere near their best, however, they did hold their own last week at Parramatta, so if they can do that and capitalise on some ordinary defence, then it could be showtime for Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce to guide their side back into a winning frame of mine.
And it has to be.
The Cowboys are without their two main forwards, and were struggling when they did have possession and territory. The Knights should snap their losing streak in a big way.
Knights by 22.
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Kick-off: 3pm (AEST)
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
TV: Live, Fox League 502
Online: Live, Foxtel App, Foxtel Now, Kayo Sports, NRL Digital Pass
Betting: Knights $1.36, Cowboys $3.05
Overall record: Played 37, Knights 19, Cowboys 18
Last meeting: Round 20, 2018, Cowboys 20 defeat Knights 18 at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville
Last five: Cowboys 4, Knights 1
Record at venue: Played 18, Cowboys 12, Knights 6
Referees: Grant Atkins, Phil Henderson
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kurt Mann 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Tautau Moga 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Mason Lino 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Connor Watson 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Mitchell Barnett 13. Josh King
Interchange: 14. Jacob Saifiti 15. Herman Ese’ese 16. Sione Mata’utia 17. Aidan Guerra 20. Jirah Momoisea 21. Danny Levi
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Coen Hess 4. Tom Opacic 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14. Reuben Cotter 15. John Asiata 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Peter Hola 20. Corey Jensen 21. Murray Taulagi