Shannon Meyer previews the final match of the Magic Round on Sunday evening.
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Tigers: 1. Starford To’a 2. Asu Kepaoa 3. Oliver Gildart 4. Luke Garner 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Luke Brooks 7. Jackson Hastings 8. James Tamou 9. Jake Simpkin 10. Zane Musgrove 11. Kelma Tuilagi 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. Tyrone Peachey 15. Alex Twal 16. Alex Seyfarth 17. Stefano Utoikamanu 18. Jacob Liddle 19. Jock Madden 20. Thomas Mikaele 21. Fa’amanu Brown 22. Junior Pauga 23. Junior Tupou 24. Tukimihia Simpkins
Luciano Leilua returns to the Tigers team, just in time to give his future employers a sample of what’s coming next season.Embed from Getty Images
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McClean 9 Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Tom Gilbert 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Hamiso Tabau-Fidow 15. Helium Luki 16. Coen Hess 17. Griffin Neame 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19. Jake Granville 20. Connelly Lemuelu 21. Ben Condon 22. Emry Pere 23. Ben Hampton 24. Brendan Elliot
Unsurprisingly the Cowboys’ 1-17 is unchanged from last weekend. Scott Drinkwater retains the fullback gig and Hamiso Tabau-Fidow remains an exciting bench option. Second rower Tom Gilbert signed for the Redcliffe Dolphins during the week: the 21-year-old should bring down the average age of the 2023 Dolphins pack.
Referee: Gerard Sutton
This is a replay of the 2005 NRL Grand Final – famed for the infamous Benji Marshall flick pass and the Wests Tigers’ first premiership. The Wests Tigers have only made the finals twice since, and not once since 2011. North Queensland won their first premiership a decade later with another grand final appearance two years after that.
Neither side were expected to make finals this season according to most pre-season predictions, but the Cowboys have certainly changed that thinking with an excellent start to the season. North Queensland head into this game in third position on the ladder, and just three points away from having the best defensive record in the competition, a turnaround considering they had the worst defensive record in 2021. For the record, the Tigers had the second worst defensive record in 2021.
The Cowboys come into this game on a run of four straight wins, conceding under 10 points a game in that run and passing 30 points in their last three. The last time North Queensland scored 30 or more points before that run was against the Broncos at this very venue on a Sunday when they ran out convincing 38-12 winners.
A big player on that day was Jeremiah Nanai (who scored a hat-trick), and he has been impressive for the Cowboys all season long. Another player impressing lately is Scott Drinkwater, who has taken advantage of an opportunity at fullback and has now kept the original incumbent Hamiso Tabau-Fidow on the bench following his return from injury.
A shout out for Chad Townsend who probably typifies the Cowboys in 2022. Dismissed as a poor end-of-career Super boosting signing by some, Townsend has been magnificent for the Cowboys against expectations – he is equal third for try assists.
The Tigers, of course, have their own new halves signing for 2022 in Jackson Hastings. He was the match-winner in their dramatic game against the Eels a few rounds ago, and in general has been one of their best.
The Wests Tigers haven’t been as bad as certain media outlets (who appear to have an agenda) have said in 2022, but their morale-boosting two-game winning run is now two games ago, and it doesn’t get any easier than playing the Cowboys in Queensland.
Given this will be the last game of eight at Suncorp Stadium, and with wet weather around all week leading into Magic Round, it might not be the best playing surface for loads of points. Combine that with the Cowboys’ new-found defensive skills, and it could be a low-scoring game on Sunday. For the record these two teams are first and second for Tackle Efficiency in 2022.Embed from Getty Images
Wests Tigers lead the H2H by 23-16 and they are on a decent run of recent form, having won five of their last six against the Cowboys.
Interestingly, looking at Magic Round results for the two previous editions, the Tigers have won both of their previous Magic Round games, while North Queensland are 0/2.
Wests Tigers also lead the Cowboys on winning percentage at Suncorp Stadium since 1998 – winning 44% of their games at Suncorp Stadium compared to the Cowboys’ 36%. North Queensland have won just three of their last 14 games at Suncorp. The Tigers’ Suncorp Stadium record in 2021 was W2 L2.
The Wests Tigers’ recent record on a Sunday is quite poor though, losing five in a row and scoring just 14 points in total in their last four Sunday matches.
Gerard Sutton is the man with the whistle for this clash on Sunday, with a point of mild interest for both sides. Both of these teams are in the bottom five for current NRL sides with a worst winning percentage for games officiated by Sutton than overall. The Cowboys have a difference of -7.36%, the Tigers -3.97%.
Cowboys by two.
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