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Barry Toohey’s game preview: Knights vs Tigers

Barry Toohey’s game preview: Knights vs Tigers Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers
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Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

Newcastle Knights take on North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville. Pictures: AAP/Michael Chambers

TweetFacebookOVERVIEW:The Knights are chasing their second win of the season over the Tigers after pinching a 22-20 victory with a late Shaun Kenny-Dowall try at Scully Park, Tamworth earlier in the season. It was the game that changed the course of the season for the Knights with playmaker Mitchell Pearce tearing his pec muscle late in the contest. Thankfully, Pearce is back for the return bout at McDonald Jones Stadium, a game the home side must win to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Unfortunately, the Tigers will be just as desperate, sitting in ninth spot, four points shy of the stuttering Warriors. Both teams are coming off last round defeats with the Knights crumbling in a heap in the second half against the Cowboys and the Tigers not turning up to face the Bulldogs after big wins over the Dragons and Souths.

KEY MATCH-UPS:Moses Mbye v Kalyn Ponga:Mbye has slotted in at the back effortlessly since his mid-season shift from the Dogs and will be a real threat from broken play and following the big Tigers forwards around.

Ponga showed his toughness to play through the pain of a sprained ankle against the Cowboys and was dynamic in the first half before his lack of match fitness let him down in the second 40. He is still getting constant treatment for the ankle and Knights fans will be hoping he is close to 100 percent fit come Friday night.

Benji Marshall v Mitchell Pearce:It may be the last time Knights fans get the chance to see Benji playing in Newcastle with doubts over his future and while the brilliant footwork and pace off the mark may be not quite what it once was, his experience and guile still make him a big dangerman.

Pearce had 15 staples in a gaping head wound against the Cowboys and maybe could have imposed himself more on the game when things were on the line in the second half. Expect him to be back to his scheming best.

THE DEBUT:Ex-Tigers prop JJ Felise gets his first chance at NRL level for the Knights since linking with the club mid-season and says it’s “pretty special” his debut for his new club is against the Tigers.

He is playing for a contract so hunger won’t be an issue for him.

OUTCOME:The Tigers will come to play after dropping their guard against the Dogs last weekend and the Knights ability to stop their big men up front, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer, will decide how big an influence Robbie Farah and Marshall have. Limit their impact and the Knights win.

Teams:Newcastle Knights:1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Cory Denniss, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6 Connor Watson, 7 Mitchell Pearce (c), 8 Herman Ese’ese, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitch Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra.

Interchange: 14 Jamie Buhrer (c), 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Josh King, 17 JJ Felise

Reserves: 18 Nick Meaney, 19 Sam Stone, 20 Jack Cogger, 21 Luke Yates

Wests Tigers:1 Moses Mbye, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Corey Thompson, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Michael Chee Kam, 12 Luke Garner, 13 Elijah Taylor (c).

Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Suaso Sue, 16 Robbie Rochow, 17 Matt Eisenhuth

Reserves: 18 Jacob Liddle, 19 Chris McQueen, 20 Pita Godinet, 21 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak

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