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PREVIEW: North Queensland Cowboys vs New Zealand Warriors

After three straight losses the defending champs are in crisis mode with Paul Green challenging his side to perform better.  This week they face a side humiliated last week and clinging on in the battle to finish in the top eight.

LAST TIME OUT

Neither side can be proud of last week’s performance going into this crucial round 24 game.

North Queensland once again struggled in Sydney in going down to the Sydney Roosters 22-10.  They’ve only won twice in Sydney this year and have one more chance to improve that record at Belmore next weekend.  Ethan Lowe managed to get over the line for the Cowboys only try in the first half as they headed into half-time 16-4 behind.  It wasn’t much better in the second half as Shaun Kenny-Dowall tormented the Cowboys in attack. Kenny-Dowall scoring one and setting up another on their way to an upset win.

New Zealand Warriors faced South Sydney who were coming off the back of a golden point loss to the Melbourne Storm.  Just like the Cowboys, Solomone Kata opened the scoring early but from the point on it was all the Rabbitohs as they embarrassed the home side to lead 31-6 at the main break.  It was the Adam Reynolds show until he left the field five minutes after the break with a hamstring injury in setting up three of the five tries to that point.  A missed opportunity for the Warriors to climb inside the eight and now face sudden death footy for the last three weeks with matches against the Cowboys, Tigers and Eels.

KEY BATTLES

Arguable the best two number sevens of recent years face off in Johnathan Thurston and Shaun Johnson.  A possible dip in the Cowboys form could be due to JT not quite being at full fitness late in the season.  This is where Michael Morgan has to take control of the game and assist his halves teammate.  Shaun Johnson is a potential match winner and has to lift his side this week at a ground where they traditionally struggle.

Big battle of the second rowers with Gavin Cooper and Ryan Hoffman featuring.  Both are key players in the forwards.  They are tall, strong, possess a good off-load and get through plenty of work.

The other notable match-up is the ‘larger than life’ Manu Vatuvei taking on the ‘quiet achiever’ in Kyle Feldt.  Expect the Warrior to run straight at Feldt and give him a tough night in defence.  Feldt to respond with pace and agility.

PREDICTION

North Queensland might be in a hole right now but if they’re serious about becoming a team to win back to back premierships for the first time since Brisbane in 1997 and 1998, this is a game they need to dominate and win well.

A fact in their favour is that the Warriors have only won once in ten matches played in Townsville since 2003.  This could be ‘goodnight Warriors’ with a loss.

Cowboys by 10

SQUADS

Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. Matthew Scott 9. Ray Thompson 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjasyn 15. Coen Hess 16. Scott Bolton 17. Patrick Kaufusi

Warriors: 1 David Fusitu’a 2 Ken Maumalo 3 Blake Ayshford 4 Solomone Kata 5 Manu Vatuvei 6 Thomas Leuluai 7 Shaun Johnson 8 Jacob Lillyman 9 Jazz Tevaga 10 Albert Vete 11 Bodene Thompson 12 Ryan Hoffman (c) 13 Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14 Nathaniel Roache 15 Sam Lisone 16 Ben Matulino 17 James Gavet 20 Bunty Afoa.

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