Cormac Pearson previews this Saturday night’s bout between the out of form Cowboys and the confident Green Machine in Townsville at 1300SMILES Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing result last weekend against the Cronulla Sharks. Up at half time, the Cowboys then went to sensationally concede five tries in twenty minutes, eventually losing 42-16 to the men from the Shire. The Cowboys completed better and had more possession but defensive lapses cost the men from the north the two points. The loss has placed the Cowboys at 13th on the ladder and as they celebrate their 600th club game, they will be desperate to get their season going.
A strong win against the Newcastle Knights has the Raiders moving away from last seasons inability to finish games as they now sit at fifth on the ladder. The raiders did enough to win last week outscoring the Knights 17-10 with strong performances from new British recruit John Bateman, alongside revelation Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. The men in green dominated the possession and run metres, but will be looking to up the completion rate after making 12 errors last round.
North Queensland Cowboys
After a poor loss to the Sharks, Cowboys Coach Paul Green has stuck strong with his squad, naming an unchanged lineup for this Saturday night. Twenty-one year-old Jake Clifford remains in the halves at five-eight with Michael Morgan leading the team from halfback. Jason Taumalolo and Kyle Feldt remain injured as Josh McGuire stands at the back of the scrum at lock and Javid Bowen keeps his spot on the wing. Jordan McLean will line up this weekend for his 100th NRL game.
North Queensland Cowboys squad: 1. Te Maire Martin, 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Jordan Kahu, 4. Ben Hampton, 5. Javid Bowen 6. Jake Clifford, 7. Michael Morgan (c) 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Josh McGuire 14. John Asiata 15. Corey Jensen, 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Francis Molo 18. Shane Wright, 19. Justin O’Neill, 20. Peter Hola, 21. Enari Tuala
Ricky Stuart has named an unchanged seventeen for this weekend. Aidan Sezer remains on the sidelines with a side-strain as Sam Williams fills in again in at halfback, following a good performance last week. Joseph Tapine was given the chance to play this weekend but his broken thumb has ruled him out.
Canberra Raiders squad:
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Nick Cotric 3. Jarrod Croker (c) 4. Joey Leilua 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Josh Papalii 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Dunamis Lui 11. John Bateman 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Siliva Havili 15. Hudson Young 16. Sia Soliola 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Joseph Tapine 19. Jack Murchie 20. Bailey Simonsson 21. JJ Collins
HEAD TO HEAD
Currently the Raiders have the upper hand against the Cowboys after winning both games last season and three of their last five. Last time they met in Round 18 last year, Josh Papalli and Jordan Rapana came up big and will be looking to do so again. The Raiders backline is one of the most dangerous in the competition, coming against a struggling backline in the Cowboys could be pivotal. If their relatively small forward pack can get them moving forward, then it could mean trouble for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys will need to try and grind out a victory by controlling the ball and completing well. So far this year the new look Cowboys backline hasn’t quite caught fire. The new names in Nene McDonald and Jordan Kahu haven’t really got the chance to stamp themselves as Cowboys yet, due to the lack of go forward. Michael Morgan will be eager to have a big game after not having a huge impact last week, as well as young gun Jake Clifford who will be hoping to find his feet in First Grade.
KEY BATTLE: Jake Granville vs. Josh Hodgson
This week’s key battle is between two players who play the hooking position very differently. Jake Granville boasts some serious pace from dummy half and can be a huge threat if the Cowboys are on the front foot. His defence is very solid making the most tackles last weekend against the Sharks with forty-nine in sixty-six minutes. Granville can be dangerous when close to the opposing line with a good short kicking game his pace from dummy half can catch some A and B defenders off guard. His running game has been a bit lacklustre so far this year, only having six hit-ups against the Sharks, which is a bit below what Paul Green would ask from the dynamic hooker. Granville is a player that can change a game and the Raiders will want to try and minimise his affect on the game.
Josh Hodgson is one of the premier players in his position in the NRL and plays a very different role to Granville. Hodgson is a great ball player and a very smart footballer with a great kicking game. He runs the team around from dummy half and can find holes in opposition defences that others wish they could see. With two try assists to his name this year, Hodgson is an attacking threat that the Cowboys will need to try and take care of. Hodgson is a eighty minute player who can slot in to the halves and lock if need be. The english-man made 34 tackles last week and will no doubt have an impact on the game this weekend.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 6th of April
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
Kick-off: 5:30pm AEST
Referees: David Munro and Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
After a poor outing against the Sharks, the Cowboys will be hoping to come out fast, with the home-ground advantage, and a time slot that will suit the Cowboys, they will be a tough team to beat. But the Raiders recent form and a backline that the other fifteen clubs envy, they will be too strong for the Cowboys. Raiders by 8