Souths have been missing some important players recently and they have named the return of one of the key contributors in Adam Reynolds to return when they run out onto Barlow Park for a Souths Sydney relocated home game. Returning from s shoulder/neck injury in tome to test himself for Origin may be the motivator, but to do it against a mobile and yet sizable pack like the Cowboys may not have been the best idea. Last week the Bunnies came up two points short when Sam Burgess pushed them close before the clock ran out, playing the full game was an exception effort but how he handles the added heat in Cairns be interesting.
The Cowboys were lambasted as underperforming by some sections of the press after they defeated Manly at home. For some reason, the return of Cherry Evans and Lyon were ignored as they showed a short burst of brilliance before fading away against a side that did what was needed for the full game. The Cowboys have had a number of minor changes with the loss of Morgan and now the exciting Jahrome Hughes has moved on to Melbourne to make the most of his excellent start to the 2016 season. The return of Ray Thompson should not be undervalued as he was an excellent form before his knee injury.
The Premiers will be welcoming the signing of two more of the side that went all the way after confirmation of the signings of O’Neill and Lowe reduced the list of players to be secured. With a squad that has limited the number of players used so far this season it is only the Thompson/Morgan change that is different for the Cowboys. I am sure North Queensland will be relieved then Origin period is over, but they will need to win this to keep in touch with the Storm and Runaway Sharks.
Souths have lost their last four games (Origin took Reynolds and Inglis) and will be hoping for a change of fortunes with the change of venue. Their losses to Penrith, Parramatta, West Tigers and the Titans showed the inconsistency that has dogged their games so far this season. The two-point loss to the Panthers was going to be more except for the two tries scored in the last ten, bigger losses to the Eels and Tigers could not mask the shortcoming they suffered without Reynolds and the close defeat to the Titans was not masking much at all. They will need Adam Reynolds to be as effective as he was in previous seasons if they are to get something from this season, but what better way to do this than to beat the reigning Premiers in their own backyard.
The Cowboys should not be complacent, many sides who back up from their premiership winning year fall short in the games that most expected them to win. Hopefully last Monday night was the wakeup they needed as Souths sit one place above the Sea Eagles and three wins out of the current eight. The Cowboys are two wins out of second and will be hoping for a favour from the Broncos to help reduce the margin. Both sides need favours, but neither would be relying on this as they head towards the finals.
To the game. Referee Gerard Sutton is in charge and while Cowboys fans will remember that he controlled the Grand Final, he has also been in control of the losses to the Storm and Sharks this season. Mind you, he has not done any favours for Souths. Hopefully he is consistent and keeps an eye out for the actions of a certain band of brothers.
Both sides are close (as close as you get at this time of year) to full strength, Souths are missing Bryson Goodwin (leading scorer) but they do have their next three best contributors taking the field. They have a number of players who have been improvements to the positions as the season has rolled but how they gel will determine their performance. They are facing up to a side that has put on 70 more points so far this season and having achieved that with 5 less players being used. In fact, for Souths only Cameron McInnes has taken the field for every game as opposed to nine of the Cowboys.
So stability favours the Cowboys. Home Ground Advantage, Souths are hosting this is Cairns and there are no small number of Cowboys fans in the region so it will be favouring the visitors. Scoring and defence also both favour the Cowboys, with the defence being 133 points to the good. Cold hard light of day would say that this should be an easy win for the Cowboys.
I am not so sure, both sides are desperate, it will be a warm 24 degrees and that makes for some sweaty football for both Burgess and Taumalolo to bust the lines late in the game. I am still going to favour the Cowboys, but if you went by the last ten minutes of the Panthers game, you can understand why it may be closer than some pundits are advocating.
Cowboys by 16