Brendan Wood previews the first game on Sunday afternoon between the Sydney Roosters and the North Queensland Cowboys from Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Roosters have regained some of their early season form these past few games. Despite going down to the league-leading Storm two weeks ago, they’ve managed to knock off the Bulldogs and Tigers recently to maintain a grip on second position.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys come out of their round 16 bye in desperate need of a win, to remain in touch with the top eight. Two of their last three loses have been by two points or less, which suggests they have struggled closing games out recently.
Origin stars James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner will be rested from this game after steering the Blues to a series win on Wednesday night. Jake Friend has been named to play his first game since round seven, returning at hooker which moves Victor Radley back to lock. Siosiua Taukeiaho returns to the starting side after missing last week with concussion. Isaac Liu moves back to the bench.
Roosters squad: 1. Joseph Manu 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Brett Morris 5. Ryan Hall 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Nat Butcher 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Victor Radley Bench: 14. Isaac Liu 15. Angus Crichton 16. Sitili Tupouniua 17. Poasa Faamausili Reserves: 18. Lindsay Collins 19. Matt Ikuvalu 20. Lachlan Lam 21. Sam Verrills.
North Queensland Cowboys
Mixed news for the Cowboys on the injury front. Josh McGuire has been named to back up from Origin, however his teammate Michael Morgan will be ruled out due a heavy concussion he sustained from a stray McGuire elbow on Wednesday night. John Asiata will be his likely replacement, moving from the bench to the starting side. Veteran prop Matt Scott returns on the bench after missing the last four games with a shoulder injury. Scott Bolton moves back to the bench and Javid Bowen has been recalled on the wing.
Cowboys squad: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Jordan Kahu 4. Tom Opacic 5. Javid Bowen 14. John Asiata 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo Bench: 15. Matt Scott 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 19. Reuben Cotter Reserves: 18. Coen Hess 20. Corey Jensen 21. Murray Taulagi.
HEAD TO HEAD
This will be the first meeting between the two sides this year. Their previous meeting was back in round 21 last year, where the Roosters were able to come away with a close 26-20 win at Allianz Stadium.
The overall head to head is weighted heavily in the Roosters favour. They have played each other 33 times in the past 20 seasons and the Roosters have won 22 of those encounters. At Central Coast Stadium however, both teams have a 50% win percentage, with the Roosters winning two from four, the Cowboys winning one from two.
Victor Radley vs Jason Taumalolo. Two lock forwards who have different playing styles but are both capable of breaking the game open at any moment.
With Jake Friend returning from injury at hooker, Radley returns to his more favoured position of lock which should see him discover his best form. This should free him up to roam the field a bit more and choose where to insert himself in attack. His defense has always been solid, but we may see a rise in his high intensity and high impact play as he will not have the extra responsibility that comes with playing hooker. Despite his size disadvantage, he will look to take on Taumalolo head on, something no one in the competition is keen to do.
Jason Taumalolo is simply a one man wrecking machine. He is the most damaging ball runner in the competition and the Roosters will certainly be targeting him in attack and defense. Targeting him is one thing but stopping him is another story. No matter how many players seem to get in front of Taumalolo he always finds a way to break tackles, make huge chunks of post-contact metres and can even break the line and score tries seemingly at will. The Roosters will have their hands full just trying to minimise the damage.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 14 July
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Referees: Peter Gough, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
WHO WILL WIN?
The Roosters go into this game as the heavy favourite and so they should. The Cowboys have struggled to close out games recently and will need to be able to keep the Roosters explosive attack in check if they are to get an upset, which will be much harder without captain Michael Morgan. Playing a home game on the central coast this week, the Roosters should have too much fire power for the Cowboys and could put on a big score if the Cowboys don’t play their best footy. Roosters by 12.