North Queensland Cowboys are looking for consecutive wins when they face Ricky Stuart’s Canberra Raiders at 1300 Smiles Stadium on Saturday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
There was some relief for the Cowboys last Saturday night in Townsville when they got home against Queensland rivals Gold Coast Titans 26-14. On the hour they led 26-2 before conceding two late tries to Ash Taylor and Jarrod Wallace. The forward pack, led by Coen Hess were too good in a four tries to two win.
After wins over Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels, Canberra Raiders continued their poor form on the road as they went down to South Sydney Rabbitohs 42-22 in Gosford. At times discipline let them down and as a result Jarrod Croker spent some time in the sin-bin in the second half. Late tries to Croker and Elliott Whitehead reduced the margin from thirty points down to twenty.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
A forced change for the home side with John Asiata’s pec injury to see him on the sidelines for up to ten weeks. Shaun Fensom comes into the seventeen man squad.
There’s a minor change to the Raiders side with Josh Papalii to start at lock, with Luke Bateman dropping back to the bench.
This could be a season defining game for both sides as we finish the first third of the season. Both sides are four points off the eight and a loss will put added pressure during the mid-season to make a run for the finals.
North Queensland’s win last weekend will give them a boost after losing their previous two at home. Canberra are yet to win on the road having conceded an average of 38 points along the way. This statistic is likely to give Johnathon Thurston a big smile after struggling in the early part of the season, so to the fact that great JT has the second best try assists in 2018 with nine. If the Raiders let him run and create opportunities, it will be a long night in the ‘ville.
Of interest will be the battle out wide between Kyle Feldt and Justin O’Neill as they mark up against Joseph Leilua and Jordan Rapana. ‘Leipana’ haven’t quite got to the dizzy heights of 2017 where they were the gun centre and wing combination, feared by all teams. Kyle Feldt week after week has performed exceptionally well, already crossing for six tries to be the leading tryscorer for the Cowboys. O’Neill has caused trouble for the defence on the inside, with 11 tackle bursts in the opening seven rounds.
How close Canberra get on the scoreboard to the Cowboys depends on the halves, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer. Ricky Stuart has struggled to settle on a combination with Austin partnered with Sam Williams at the start of the season before Williams was paired with Sezer, prior to Williams’ injury. The uncertainty along with the fact that both Sezer and Austin are off-contract at season’s end doesn’t seem to be helping the Raiders cause.
The Raiders also have to overcome a horrible record at 1300 Smiles Stadium. Their last win was recorded in 2006 with Todd Carney’s field goal getting the Raiders home 15-14. It’s ironic that Carney is looking to return to the NRL through the Cowboys.
Elliott Whitehead has made seventeen ineffective tackles this season and could be seen as an easy target in defence.
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe.
Canberra Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii. Interchange: 14 Ata Hingano, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Luke Bateman, 17 Dunamis Lui.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday April 27, 2018
Venue: 1300 Smiles Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?