The Cowboys are reeling at the bottom of the ladder while the Panthers snapped back to reality last week after an impressive win over the Sharks the round before. Jem Nash previews.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
What can be said about the Cowboys at this stage? They’ve dealt with a lot of injuries to key players throughout the year, but that’s no excuse for some of the poor performances they’ve put forward this season. Last week’s 42-6 shellacking to the Newcastle Knights was just another low in a disappointing year for the Cowboys.
Just a week after one of the better performances of their season against the Sharks, the Panthers crashed back to earth against the Broncos last week. The same issues that have plagued them all year returned, as the Panthers constantly coughed up possession and struggled to crack the Broncos’ defence despite a number of opportunities.
North Queensland Cowboys
Matt Scott is out after suffering a stroke through the week. Scott Bolton has been named to start at prop with Coen Hess on the bench, while Jordan Kahu moves to the centres and Murray Taulagi takes his spot on the wing. Jason Taumalolo has been named on an extended bench and is an outside chance to return from a foot injury.
North Queensland Cowboys’ squad: 1 Scott Drinkwater 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Jordan Kahu 4 Tom Opacic 5 Murray Taulagi 6 Michael Morgan 7 Jake Clifford 8 Scott Bolton 9 Jake Granville 10 Jordan McLean 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Shane Wright 13 John Asiata 14 Reuben Cotter 15 Coen Hess 16 Peter Hola 17 Francis Molo 18 Jason Taumalolo 19 Tom Gilbert 20 Corey Jensen 21 Gideon Gela-Mosby.
Josh Mansour is out with a back injury, with Stephen Crichton taking his spot on the wing. Jarome Luai returns on the bench, with Isaah Yeo named to start and Moses Leota on the bench, but don’t be surprised if they swap on game day as they did last week.
Penrith Panthers’ squad: 1 Dylan Edwards 2 Stephen Crichton 3 Dean Whare 4 Brent Naden 5 Brian To’o 6 James Maloney 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Mitchell Kenny 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Jarome Luai 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Leota 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard 18 Wayde Egan 19 William Burns 20 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 21 Hame Sele.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the first meeting between the two sides this year, after facing off twice the year before. The Panthers dominated in their first match last year in a 33-14 win in Townsville, before the Cowboys bounced back in round 9 in a 26-20 triumph in Bathurst.
The Panthers need to ensure they win the battle in the halves. Their attack has struggled for the majority of the year; if the forward pack can get on top, Nathan Cleary and James Maloney must step up and create scoring opportunities for their side.
On the other side, Michael Morgan and Jake Clifford need to combine better. Everyone knows what both players are capable of and if they can find their best form they can definitely lead the Cowboys to victory. Additionally, the battle between Viliame Kikau and Gavin Cooper will be important in the outcome of this match. Kikau was unusually quiet last week, and if he can get back to his damaging best he has the ability to change the game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, August 22
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Referee: Matt Cecchin, Phil Henderson
WHO WILL WIN?
The Panthers have struggled with inconsistency all year, but right now their season is on the line. They basically need to win three games in a row to make finals so they should turn up ready to go against a Cowboys side that has struggled all year.
Penrith Panthers by 10.