There will be plenty of interest in Saturday afternoon’s clash at 1300 Smiles Stadium where one JT will face his old club and the other will be missing after a season ending shoulder injury. But could it be the third of the JT’s that makes the difference between these two sides.

LAST TIME OUT

Last week in Melbourne NRL fans were robbed of an epic encounter between the Storm and Cowboys with the Origin players unavailable.  On the flip side it showed how good the depth is in both teams and how strong the Queensland Intrust Super Cup is.  The best of them was Brodie Croft who at just nineteens years of age kicked the winning field goal in golden point to give Melbourne Storm victory 23-22.  Kane Linnett playing in the second row had a solid game for the Cowboys but it was the effort of Jason Taumalolo which was superb, making 300 metres from 26 hit-ups whilst making 37 tackles.

Penrith had the week off courtesy of a bye.  The week prior they took a home game to Carrington Park in Bathurst where they faced the Canberra Raiders in what could be described ‘the great escape’.  It looked like the Raiders were home inside the final ten minutes 20-12 but it was Matt Moylan, playing his second consecutive game in the number six jumper who orchestrated the comeback.  Moylan set up Corey Harawira-Naera, then an offload to Tyrone Peachey in consecutive minutes to steal the game 24-20.

KEY BATTLE

It’s hard to go past the two locks who will go head-to-head in this battle.  The last time Jason Taumololo and Trent Merrin faced each other was in the ANZAC Test where Australia ran out winners 30-12.  Taumololo has been the best Cowboys forward this season as he repays back some of that lucrative ten-year contract.  He’s by far made the most metres on average for the Cowboys and being hard to handles in making the most tackle breaks for his side this season.  Similarly Trent Merrin has produced the most metres for the Panthers this season and is the top tackler for the club after sixteen rounds.  It’s hard to understand why New South Wales have declined twice to select him in their Origin side this year.  Their influences of Coen Hess and Isaah Yeo respectively and the ability to play big minutes, could go a fair way to deciding who wins.

PREDICTION

There are so many variables in this game that point towards a rare Panthers win in Townsville.  Without Thurston the Cowboys win record is under 50% this season and their normally strong home record is sitting at four wins and three losses.  The Panthers are also looking for their fifth win.  Penrith just seem to have the right fit at the moment and just have the edge in form.

Panthers by 6

SQUADS

Cowboys v Panthers, Saturday 24 June, 3pm at 1300SMILES Stadium

Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 18. Kyle Laybutt 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Coen Hess 16. Shaun Fensom 17. Corey Jensen 19. Kalyn Ponga 21. Braeden Uele 23. Te Maire Martin

Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Waqa Blake 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Rein 10. Regan Campbell-Gillard 11. Corey Harawira 12. Isaah Yeo 13. Trent Merrin 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Leilani Latu 16. Tim Browne 17. Viliame Kikau 18. Kaide Ellis 19. Sione Katoa