Date: Saturday 18th April
Venue: 1300Smiles Stadium
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote 2 Justin O’Neill 3 Tautau Moga 4 Kane Linnett 5 Antonio Winterstein 6 Michael Morgan 7 Johnathan Thurston 8 Matt Scott 9 Jake Granville 10 James Tamou 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo Interchange 14 Rory Kostjasyn 15 John Asiata 16 Scott Bolton 17 Ben Hannant
Warriors: 1. Tuimoala Lolohea 2. Jonathan Wright 3. Konrad Hurrell 4. Solomone Kata 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Chad Townsend 7. Shaun Johnson 8. Jacob Lillyman 9. Thomas Leuluai 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14. Nathan Friend 15. Dominique Peyroux 16. Sam Lisone 17. Albert Vete 18. Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Last Ten Meetings
Cowboys 16-20 Warriors – March 22nd 2014
Warriors 20-18 Cowboys – April 1st 2013
Cowboys 52-12 Warriors – August 11th 2012
Warriors 35-18 Cowboys – July 1st 2012
Warriors 18-6 Cowboys – September 3rd 2011
Cowboys 30-10 Warriors – June 18th 2011
Warriors 24-12 Cowboys – May 15th 2010
Warriors 12-34 Cowboys – May 17th 2009
Warriors 24-12 Cowboys – July 12th 2008
Cowboys 48-20 Warriors – April 19th 2008
Saturday evening will see the resurgent North Queensland Cowboys host a New Zealand Warriors outfit who are having a rotten time on the road so far this season.
It is hard to believe a side who have beaten Melbourne, Penrith and South Sydney all in succession go into this contest in 11th spot on the ladder, however that is exactly where the Cowboys are currently sitting due to their poor start to the year.
Having lost their first three they have bounced back in style, most recently when Jonathan Thurston’s 18 point haul in the second half led his side to a 30-12 victory over the reigning premiers to make it three wins on the spin.
Points difference has the Warriors in seventh on the ladder although the two sides have picked up six competition points apiece so far in 2015.
The New Zealand outfit have managed just one win in Australia in their first six games as they beat the Raiders 18-6, and go into this one off the back of a hard fought 32-22 win over Wests.
They did win in Townsville last time the two met, edging a 20-18 win over the Cowboys, but their last away victory in this fixture before that came in 2002.
Thurston’s last display against the Rabbitohs was incredible as he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and led his side over the line. His opposite number Shaun Johnson has the ability to turn a game on it’s head much like JT, and with two of the competition’s best halves going head-to-head the winner of this battle should be celebrating a victory on the hooter.
Another JT, Jason Taumalolo, has been on fire in recent weeks as he finds another gear in the final stages of games to tear apart the tiring opponents standing in his way. His toughest test so far this year may be coming up against one of the best defensive second rowers around, with the Warriors looking for Ryan Hoffman to keep the rampaging Taumalolo quiet.
Manu Vatuvei celebrated his 200th appearance in Warriors colours in style last week as he crossed for two tries, and in taking his 2015 total to five in six games he also equalled Nigel Vagana in becoming the top try scoring Kiwi in NRL history. Antoio Winterstein will have his hands full this week, although it is worth noting that the Queensland wingman is no stranger to crossing the whitewash himself.
With the array of talent on display in this one it is certainly set to be a blockbuster which is not to be missed.
Prediction: With the Warriors troubles on the road and with Townsville being such a tough place to visit I can’t see anything other than a Cowboys victory. They have looked like a bona fide top eight side in recent weeks and with JT (both of them!) on form they are a dangerous outfit. Cowboys by 14.