North Queensland Cowboys host St George Dragons at 1300 Smiles Stadium Townsville at 7:30pm Saturday.

The Cowboys will field a changed team for the first time since the Grand Final after going down by one point to the Broncos. St George comes north after pipping the Panthers by two points in a close game in Illawarra Stadium.

Last Time Out

The Cowboys return home after being denied two late tries and then watching a Milford field goal travel 40metres to dash their hopes of a victory in Brisbane. In a game rated as one of the best for a club game, they fought hard and outscored the Broncos by 3 tries to   two. They will need to further outscore the Dragons if they are to take the points this weekend.

The Dragons were solid in defence and whilst the Panthers threw everything at them, they held them to two scores and will need to repeat this effort to have a chance on Saturday night. They seemed a bit flat in attack but the return of Benji Marshall may help this aspect of their game plan.

Key Battle

We know this comes down to the Number 7s. Both JT and Benji are enigmatic players and while there is no question about Johnathan Thurston and his status as a future immortal, Benji Marshall has had victories over the Cowboys and he does not fear nor does he expect the Cowboys to allow him to range free to exploit gaps. The forwards of the Cowboys will be making sure that they do not give him the opportunities.

Prediction

We have seen that the Cowboys are playing some of the best football in the nation, however they have only two wins after four rounds. They will need to bring their best game if they are to overcome a resolute St George whose defence was a standout in their win.  This game should be a victory to the Cowboys, they have the additional day of rest and be bolstered by a home crowd that should be vocal in their support of the current Premiers. St George does have a chance, but any viewing of the two games from last weekend show the Cowboys and Broncos playing levels above the rest of the competition at the moment.

Final Score: North Queensland Cowboys 34 St George Dragons 12.

Squads

Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Justin O’Neill 4 Javid Bowen 5 Antonio Winterstein 6 Michael Morgan 7 Johnathan Thurston 8 Matt Scott 14 Rory Kostjasyn 10 James Tamou 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 9 Jake Granville 15 John Asiata 16 Scott Bolton 17 Ben Hannant

Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan, 2 Peter Mata’utia, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Timoteo Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Benji Marshall, 8 Leeson Ah Mau, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Russell Packer, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jack De Belin. Interchange: 14 Michael Cooper, 15 Will Matthews, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Jacob Marketo, 18 Josh McCrone