After a win/loss start to 2014, the North Queensland Cowboys host the New Zealand Warriors at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night. The Warriors have been hugely disappointing thus far, beaten 36-16 by the Parramatta Eels in round one and humiliated 31-12 by the St George-Illawarra Dragons at Eden Park last weekend.
The Cowboys were right in the game against the Broncos last week and if not for a Jonathan Thurston bobble as he reached out to score, they may have won the match. Second rower Jason Taumololo has been in terrific form in 2014 as has fullback Michael Morgan, filling the void of club legend Matt Bowen.
The Warriors, despite great pre-season form, have been flat, and Sam Tomkins’ foray into the NRL has been underwhelming. They receive a much needed boost for this one, welcoming Manu ‘The Beast’ Vatuvei back from injury and his powerful runs and ability to find the line will be crucial.In other changes Feleti Mateo has been elevated to starting lock and Konrad Hurrell has been named on an extended bench.
Tariq Sims comes into the starting side for the Cowboys, replacing Glen Hall who has a knee injury. Hooker Cameron King suffered a knee injury playing for the Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup and will miss six weeks, putting a dent in their depth at hooker.
On current form, and in front of their home crowd, the Cowboys should win easily, but the Warriors have a habit of surprising everyone and could cause an upset, especially with Vatuvei and Hurrell back in the squad. Johnson needs more support from Chad Townsend who has been far too quiet and needs to step up. He spent plenty of time in the NSW Cup in 2013 and seems to be struggling with the demands of the NRL.
The Cowboys should win, especially at home, and consign the Warriors to a third straight loss.