The Cowboys managed to pull out their second golden point victory but the cost was very high. The loss of Matt Scott for the season, Coote with a serious ankle injury and Antonio Winterstein with a broken arm, combined with the suspension of powerhouse lock Jason Taumalolo will test the Cowboys, Manly heads north after a second loss this season. Errors and poor decision making combined with a lack of a full game effort from many on the side is not inspiring the Brookvale faithful, nor is the talk of massive internal front office issues between Club Legend Bob Fulton and the new CEO.

LAST TIME OUT

The Cowboys had a brutal, extended game, thanks to a second golden point match. This was concluded by yet another Thurston field goal, something that must be leaving scars deep in the Bronco’s psyche (good). When you consider the loss of players through the match, it was a courageous effort to fight hard and take the points. How much will the second consecutive extra-time effort take out of the Cowboys and are they ripe for picking. Against some sides in the competition I would be concerned, but the Sea Eagles have not shown much this year.

Manly heads north, facing a team that has beaten them in their last five encounters. 1300 Smiles stadium is not the happiest place on earth for visiting teams and as Summer slowly departs the scene, the chance of a hot and humid encounter may muss the hair of many of the league’s best haircuts. Manly’s biggest problem this season has been the 80 minutes. Losses to the Eels and Bunnies, exposed a team that lacked ticker, lacked plans for attack and caught out in defence. Can that be fixed by playing a team that has been reshuffled in just a week, most would not think so.

How this game moves across the park will be interesting, watching Manly last weekend showed a team willing to pass the ball, but for very little gain. Playing up against a relatively inexperienced fullback would normally mean that you as a team would be looking to kick at him frequently and try and force an error. This would be ok, but Kalyn Ponga Is no usual rookie. If the chasing line is not wide and even, he will make you look foolish. He has speed to burn and the confidence to play at this level. The two games he played in last year were finals and he was not out of place with his efforts in defence or with the ball.

KEY BATTLES

How the Manly Pack handles the weakened Cowboys forwards will be interesting. But the temperature up in Townsville may even out the impacts of Nate Myles and company as the game wears on. The pack aside, we see a battle of tactics over the impacts of individuals. DCE, to many has not been earning his paycheck, How Trent Barrett can create a plan to work to his skills will determine both the season and his Manly career.

The big question, for me, is how often rather than will the Sea Eagles test out Kalyn Ponga and this may well backfire, if he can find some open spaces. His speed and vision are what made Newcastle mortgage their future on, and the injury to Coote will give the Rugby League world a taste of what that future holds.

PREDICTION

Manly has a coach in the hot seat, they are facing a side with four big outs and include a rookie Fullback who will be carrying some of the greatest hype after signing his new contract for the Knights for an eye-bleeding sum. Even away from home you would hope as a coach that the Cowboys will be able to be beaten on Saturday night. The Cowboys have had to handle missing players due to origin and with the loss of Scott and Taumalolo from the pack and Winterstein and Coote or similar have happened before. They will adjust accordingly and should be able to handle the Sea Eagles. Cowboys by 12.

SQUADS

Cowboys: 1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Javid Bowen,
6. Michael Morgan, 7. Johnathan Thurston (c), 8. Patrick Kaufusi, 9. Jake Granville,
10. Scott Bolton, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Jason Taumalolo (to be replaced).
Interchange from: 14. Ben Hampton, 15. John Asiata, 16. Coen Hess, 17. Sam Hoare,
18. Shaun Fensom, 19. Gideon Gela-Mosby, 20. Corey Jensen, 21. Ben Spina.

Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic, 2. Jorge Taufua, 3. Dylan Walker, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Akuila Uate,
6. Blake Green, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8. Brenton Lawrence, 9. Apisai Koroisau, 10. Nate Myles,
11. Frank Winterstein, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13. Jake Trbojevic, Interchange from: 14. Cameron Cullen, 15 Lewis Brown, 16. Jarrad Kennedy, 17. Shaun Lane, 18. Jonathan Wright, 19. Jackson Hastings,
20. Matthew Wright, 21. Bill Bainbridge.