Andrew Pelechaty previews a crucial top eight battle between the Wests Tigers and North Queensland.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers celebrated Robbie Farah’s 300th game with a vital 28-26 win in Newcastle. With five tries each (and a double to fullback Corey Thompson), Moses Mbye’s four goals from five was enough for the Tigers to scrape home. While they have more losses than wins (8-10), they’re equal ninth with Newcastle and Cronulla. It’s testament to the competition’s tightness. The Tigers celebrate a long-awaited return to Leichhardt Oval. They haven’t played there since round one (a 20-6 win over Manly-Warringah).
The Cowboys had another late fade out, this time against Cronulla-Sutherland at Shark Park (PointsBet Stadium). Tries to Scott Drinkwater, Matthew Scott and Francis Molo had the Cowboys 14-4 up early in the second half, but converted tries to Josh Dugan and Bronson Xerri snuck Cronulla home 16-14 in a Thursday night thriller. While the win delighted Prime Minister Scott Morrison (a regular at Sharks home games), it left the 7-11 Cowboys three points adrift of the eight and needing an almost faultless run home to make the finals.
No changes for the Tigers. Michael Chee Kam is named to play despite last week’s concussion.
Wests Tigers’ squad: 1. Corey Thompson 2. Paul Momirovski 3. Moses Mbye 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Michael Chee-Kam 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Matthew Eisenhuth 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Alex Twal 17. Chris Lawrence 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Tommy Talau 20. Chris McQueen 21. Josh Reynolds.
Michael Morgan returns after three weeks out with concussion. John Asiata moves to the bench, with Corey Jensen dropping to the reserves.
North Queensland squad: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Coen Hess 4. Tom Opacic 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8.Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. John Asiata 15. Matt Scott 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Tom Gilbert 20. Gideon Gela-Mosby 21. Reuben Cotter.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Tigers won a thriller in round 14 at Townsville, beating the Cowboys 27-26. Wests led 20-6 at halftime, but the Cowboys drew level at 26-26 to send it to Golden Point. A clutch field goal from Benji Marshall got the Tigers home in the 84th minute. Michael Chee Kam scored a double for the Tigers, with five goals to Esan Marsters.
Their last head-to-head at Leichhardt was last season, with the Tigers winning 20-12, scoring four tries to two.
Robbie Farah v Jake Granville
With Farah announcing his retirement, the finals six games (and maybe at least one finals appearance) give Tigers fans a chance to farewell their favourite rake. After his two-year stint at Souths, it’s fitting that Farah ends his career with the Balmain-Western Suburbs joint venture after the ugly departure in 2016. A penultimate game at Leichhardt (with the final game in round 25 against Cronulla-Sutherland) will be plenty of motivation for Farah.
Granville has played every game for the Cowboys this year, helping his club stay in the finals race. If the Cowboys are to continue keeping their slim hopes alive, Granville will need to fire.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 1 August.
Venue: Leichhardt Oval.
WHO WILL WIN?
A return to Leichhardt Oval is a bonus for the Tigers. North Queensland will be desperate to keep their tenuous finals hopes alive, though momentum gained from their win in Newcastle should see the Tigers home in a close one. Could it go to Golden Point again?
Wests Tigers by two.