Cormac Pearson previews this Saturday’s matchup where the blue and grey meet the blue and gold as the Cowboys take on the Eels in Townsville.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys have been in solid form but continue to fall in and out of games. Against South Sydney last weekend they were right with them in the arm wrestle, but two lapses of concentration cost them the game. The northern men will be hoping to play the full 80 minutes against the Eels and if they do will be looking to run through a vulnerable Parramatta outfit.
Parramatta are this year’s rollercoaster team, starting the year with some really good wins but also some really poor losses. Losing to the Storm last week (64-10) will be a game coach Brad Arthur will be quick to forget as the side came up against a mighty Melbourne side but just weren’t urgent enough in defence. The recent contract extension of Clint Gutherson may boost morale and get the blue and gold up and about.
North Queensland Cowboys
Coach Paul Green has name an unchanged Cowboys side, they are currently sitting in 13th on the ladder and some list consistency may be key to moving them up the ladder. The Cowboys players will be playing for more than just a win as Kyle Feldt lines up for his 100th NRL game and captain Michael Morgan will play his 150th NRL game.
Cowboys squad: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Ben Hampton 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Gideon Gela-Mosby 20. Shane Wright 21. Jake Clifford
There has been plenty of movement in Parramatta after the Lang Park thumping. George Jennings will replace Maika Sivo on the wing, Josh Hoffman will replace the injured Michael Jennings and utility Will Smith has been named at six, replacing Jaeman Salmon. Manu Ma’u has been promoted to starting tearaway as Tepai Moeroa moves to the bench. Reed Mahoney will reclaim his starting role at hooker as Peni Terepo is pushed to the bench.
Parramatta sit at eighth on the ladder and will be looking to get back to their winning ways in North Queensland.
Eels squad: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. George Jennings 3. Josh Hoffman 4. Brad Takairangi 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Will Smith 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Manu Ma’u 14. Peni Terepo 15. Tim Mannah 16. Tepai Moeroa 17. Oregon Kaufusi 18. Kane Evans 19. Matt McIlwrick 20. Jaeman Salmon 21. Bevan French
HEAD TO HEAD
The Cowboys and the Eels are two teams with a big support base who have produced some great games in recent times. Jonathan Thurston’s farewell game springs to mind when the Cowboys finished with a 44-6 win over Parramatta at the end of 2018. A lot has changed since then, including the good form of Eels Gutherson, Mitch Moses and of course the new signing Blake Ferguson. The Cowboys are of course now without JT, but new captain Morgan is on a mission to make the role his own.
We know that the Eels look great when they are on the front foot through their raw strike throughout their backline. After a not so flash showing last week the Parramatta forwards will be eager to recreate that momentum. Their back three have also been great in helping the Eels get out of the red zone and with a few backline changes they will be looking to continue that.
The Cowboys need to tighten up their middle defence as Damian Cook had an absolute ball last week running riot around some slow forwards. While they do have strike through in form Justin O’Neill and recently returned Feldt, the Cowboys cannot afford to give away easy points through the middle. On paper this is a hard game to pick which means it should be a great game to watch.
This week’s key battle is a fairly obvious one: the two key playmakers Michael Morgan and Mitchell Moses clash in a mouthwatering matchup. Since Morgan has taken charge the Cowboys just haven’t been able to bring all it together but I think he is the key to unlock their best football. He has a great running game as well as his ability to control games through his foot. Last week as the standalone kicker he wasn’t given much room but still managed to have a busy game with 15 runs and a try assist. Morgan needs to lead from the front and get a grip on the game early; if he does, the points will come.
Moses has been developing into an all round half after he was given sole reign as playmaker. He too has a great running game and has that X-factor that scares the opposition. Apart from last week he has had a great year with eight try assists already in 2019. Moses will be opposite John Asiata, a prop turned pivot, so look out for him trying to get on the outside in an effort to create an overlap. His partnership with fullback Gutherson has been sensational this year and the pair have really stamped their authority as a danger on the competition. If Moses can get into the game early and get Parramatta running then it could smell danger for the Cowboys.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 18th of May, 2019.
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville.
Kick-off: 5:30pm, AEST.
Referees: Chris Sutton and Phil Henderson.
WHO WILL WIN?
While I believe the Eels will be looking to hit back after last week, Parramatta have lost six of their last seven in Townsville. The Cowboys have been building and will be too good at home, coming away with a solid win.
Cowboys by 10.