The North Queensland Cowboys travel to Sydney to meet the high-flying Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Roosters have been impressive the last few weeks and are really chiming at the right end of the season. They followed up their 54-24 win over Manly with a comprehensive victory over fellow top four aspirants St George Illawarra Dragons. The biggest concern from the past few weeks has been their defence.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys backed up their improved performance against the Dragons with a very ordinary performance against the Newcastle Knights. The big difference between the two games was that the Cowboys managed to get the two points last week against Newcastle with a 20-18 victory. There hasn’t been much to cheer about for the Cowboys this year but the emergence of some youth, and return of key players, has fans looking forward to 2019.
The big impact from their clash against the Dragons was the loss of Luke Keary to a knee injury. And while they lose Keary, they do get Napa back from his own knee injury, who replaces Lindsay Collins on the bench. Ryan Matterson will slot into the five-eighth position while Keary is out and Kurt Baptiste has been named on the bench.
North Queensland Cowboys
John Asiata returns to the bench with Matt Scott returning to the run on side. Jordan McLean is back for his second game since returning from a foot injury. This will be a welcome sight for the Cowboys, seeing their two top end front rowers running out together again. And Jake Clifford has maintained his selection in the side and will no doubt benefit greatly from running out with Thurston one more time.
The last time these two teams met was at Allianz Stadium. That match was for a spot in the 2017 Grand Final. The Cowboys emerged victors from that 29-10. Fast forward nearly a year and both teams fortunes this year couldn’t be any different. The Roosters are fighting to consolidate their position in the top four and the Cowboys are doing their best to keep away from last position. But all the pre-match attention will be directed towards Cooper Cronk and Jonathan Thurston, in what will be their final NRL game together.
The match up between Cronk and Thurston, and the way they direct their team around, will decide this game. Thurston will need to be at his best to be able to breakdown the impressive defence of the Roosters. The Roosters, on average, are conceding 14.8 points a game while the Cowboys have only been scoring at an average of 16.1 points a game. The Cowboys will need to offer something new and play outside of their structure if they’re any chance of causing a shock. The way Cronk has been playing in organising the team, the loss of Keary and inclusion of Matterson, will place greater pressure on the half for this one.
With three tries last week, Latrell Mitchell has been massive since Origin and will no doubt be another major threat in this game. The man marking him this week is NRL rookie Enari Tuala. If Tuala and the right side defence for the Cowboys aren’t on their game then expect the Roosters to send most of their attack down this side.
The Cowboys have won only four of their last fifteen matches at Allianz Stadium against the Sydney Roosters.
Sydney Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Ryan Matterson, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Isaac Liu, 13 Victor Radley interchange: 14 Dylan Napa, 15 Zane Tetevano, 16 Mitchell Aubusson, 17 Kurt Baptiste
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Te Marie Martin , 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Justin O’Neill, 6 Jake Clifford, 7 Jonathan Thurston, 8 Matt Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo interchange: 14 Ben Hampton, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 John Asiata, 17 Scott Bolton
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Venue: Allianz Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
At home and in impressive form it will be hard to see anything but a Roosters win from this game. The Cowboys were very scrappy in their game last week but will take courage from the fact that they were able to run out winners. And while they will be desperate for a win to keep some distance between the teams under them, the Roosters will prove to good of an opposition. There may be a let down effect from the Roosters after their two big wins but expect their momentum and winning feeling to continue this week.
Roosters by 20