Julian Vella previews the clash between the high-flying North Queensland Cowboys and the St George-Illawarra Dragons to kick off Round 14 of the NRL. The Cowboys will welcome back a host of jubilant Queensland Origin stars, after Wednesday nights’ upset win over NSW.
North Queensland Cowboys Vs St George-Illawarra Dragons
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium
Date: Friday June 10, 7:55pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Brendan Elliot 3. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Ben Hampton 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Coen Hess 11. Tom Gilbert 12. Heilum Luki 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. Connelly Lemuelu 16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 17. Griffin Neame 18. Ben Condon 19. Tom Dearden 20. Jeremiah Nanai 21. Kane Bradley 22. Reuben Cotter 23. Valentine Holmes 24. Brendan Frei
Todd Payten has named the same 17 that did the job for him last week, with the Cowboys’ win over the Gold Coast Titans. Whilst he has named his four Origin representatives in the reserves, it’s still unclear to how many of them will back up from the bruising encounter on Wednesday night.
Jeremiah Nanai is the biggest concern after he picked up an ankle injury during the game, at the time he seemed like he had suffered a serious injury. But to the surprise of everyone watching, he made a miraculous comeback to the field, after being carried off by the trainers.
While Valentine Holmes and Reuben Cotter played the full 80 minutes, and will be under some doubt to backup. Tom Deardon will definitely play after not taking part in the game at all, after being demoted from 18th man duties.Embed from Getty Images
Dragons: 1. Cody Ramsey 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Tautau Moga 6. Talatau Amone 7. Ben Hunt 8. Francis Molo 9. Moses Mbye 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Jack Bird 12. Tariq Sims 13. Jack de Belin 14. Andrew McCullough 15. Aaron Woods 16. Michael Molo 17. Jayden Sullivan 18. Josh McGuire 19. Jaydn Su’A 20. Jonathon Reuben 21. Jaiyden Hunt 22. Josh Kerr
The Dragons will be sweating on the recovery of both of their Origin stars, that being the Queensland hooker Ben Hunt and Blues’ edge forward Tariq Sims. Neither player reported any injury concerns during the game, so it will be a case of how well they pull up.
If Hunt is unable to play, his spot will be taken by the energetic Jayden ‘Buddy’ Sullivan, who has been on fire in NSW Cup this season. Sullivan is undoubtedly a player of the future and one of the brightest talents at the joint venture club.
Coach Anthony Griffin continues to select Moses Mbye at hooker, with veteran Andrew McCullough named on the bench. ‘Hook’ is known for making late changes to his starting 17, so don’t be surprised to see a late switch between those two players.
Referee: Todd Smith
The high-flying Cowboys will look to continue their impressive season in 2022, as they defy the odds and prove the doubters wrong every week. Many predicted them to finish in the bottom four this season, with many punters backing them for the wooden spoon. But it’s the top four where they find themselves, and they will be keeping one eye on the Panthers and Storm ahead of them, knowing a bad run for form for either could see the Cowboys move even higher up the ladder.
Whilst the emergence of new stars such as Murray Taulagi, Jeremiah Nanai and Reuben Cotter have hogged the headlines up in Townsville, it’s been the combination of their spine players that has really brought the best out of the Cowboys and taken them to the next level. Veteran halfback and very much maligned Chad Townsend has proven to be an astute purchase from Todd Payten.Embed from Getty Images
Whilst many fans laughed and ridiculed the signing, Townsend’s guidance on the field has brought the best out of struggling youngsters Scott Drinkwater and Tom Dearden. Both players were devoid of confidence last season, but are now playing out of their skins, and they can thank Townsend for taking away the burden of directing the team around the park.
The Dragons will need to contain those spine players from the Cowboys if they want to cause an upset up north, and they will know the key to supressing their impact, is to win the forward battle and play the game on their terms. In games won this year by the Red V, they have usually defended very well and kept the game tight. If the game turns into a ‘shoot out’ the Dragons will find it hard to trade blows with their more flamboyant opponents.Embed from Getty Images
With the Dragons sitting just on the cusp of the top eight, this match is the beginning of a tough run of fixtures for the Saints, as they go on a stretch of nine games of playing teams who are either above them or equal with them on competition points. They don’t play a bottom four team until Round 23 against the Titans, so they will need to start playing more consistent football week to week.
Winger turned fullback Cody Ramsay has been a bright spark for the Dragons in recent weeks, his from has kept Tyrell Sloane out of first grade, with suggestions he might even be in the shop window. Ramsay has combined solid defence at the back, with precise support play to win the No.1 jersey and become a key player for the Red V.Embed from Getty Images
The Dragons will also be looking for a big second half effort, knowing the Cowboys are the best team for defence in the second half of games this season. The Cowboys have only conceded 43 points in the second half of matches this season, that’s an astonishing average of 3.3 points per game. In their last eight matches they have only conceded 10 points with six of those games conceding zero points.
Cowboys by 14
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