The Panthers are flying high and now they return home to Panthers Stadium to take on the struggling Cowboys. Jem Nash previews.
The Panthers ran riot over the Sharks last week to claim their fourth win in a row and stay in second spot on the ladder. They’ve proven they’ve got depth right across the park, highlighted by the stunning debut of Charlie Staines, who scored four tries last week. Nathan Cleary continues to expertly lead his side around the park and Dylan Edwards continues to improve at fullback, finishing with three try assists in the big win over Cronulla.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys are in the middle of a very tough stretch, but coach Paul Green will be very concerned over conceding 42 points in back-to-back games, albeit against competition heavyweights the Eels and the Roosters. It won’t get any easier to turn it around against the Panthers, but they will be hoping they can at least be more competitive. They’re still only one win outside the top eight, but they need to turn it around quickly if they want to feature in finals football.
1 Dylan Edwards 2 Josh Mansour 3 Dean Whare 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brent Naden 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo 14 Tyrone May 15 Spencer Leniu 16 Moses Loeta 17 Billy Burns 18 Mitch Kenny 19 Matt Burton 20 Lindsay Smith 21 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak
Dean Whare returns from injury in the centres, pushing Brent Naden to the wing in place of Charlie Staines.
North Queensland Cowboys
1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Connelly Lemuelu 4 Esan Marsters 5 Justin O’Neill 6 Mitchell Dunn 7 Jake Clifford 8 Josh McGuire 9 Reece Robson 10 Francis Molo 11 Shane Wright 12 Coen Hess 13 Jason Taumalolo 14 Daejarn Asi 15 Tom Gilbert 16 Gavin Cooper 17 Ben Hampton 18 Murray Taulagi 19 Reuben Cotter 20 Jordan McLean 21 John Asiata
Justin O’Neill returns on the wing in place of the injured Valentine Holmes, while Mitch Dunn replaces Scott Drinkwater in the halves and Daejarn Asi will make his debut on the bench.
The Cowboys have conceded an NRL-worst 253 points through this season, including 84 points in the last two games.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Isaah Yeo v Jason Taumalolo
The Panthers have the advantage over the Cowboys at most positions across the ground, but one intriguing battle to watch will be between Isaah Yeo and Jason Taumalolo. Tamaulolo is far and away the best forward in the competition, and one of the best overall players. Despite the Cowboys’ struggles, their lock has been rolling, leading the competition in run metres and post-contact metres.
On the other side, Yeo is quietly having a superb season and is a big reason why the Panthers are in the position they’re in. Yeo is averaging 144 run metres and just under 44 tackles per game, and is being mentioned for a potential State of Origin debut later this year. The Dubbo local has always been a hard worker for the Panthers but has taken his game to another level in 2020.
Panthers by 16.
Date: Sunday, July 19
Venue: Panthers Stadium