The North Queensland Cowboys host the Cronulla Sharks in Townsville this Saturday; with the two sides sitting on one win each, the two points will be up for a real fight.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
After a solid round one win against the Dragons, the North Queensland Cowboys were out-muscled and quite frankly outplayed last Friday night against the Broncos. The men from the north made sixteen errors and missed thirty six tackles, which is well below par and coach Paul Green will be hoping for a lift in defence. While they did create some opportunities, they will be hoping the change in halves will help finish them.
The Sharks have looked shaky so far with a loss to the Knights and an unconvincing second half against a poor Titans in their 20-6 win. They only completed 63 per cent against the Titans and if they are looking to beat the Cowboys in Townsville they need to keep the errors down. The right side for the Sharks has been a weapon with Shaun Johnson, Josh Dugan and Sione Katoa looking dangerous. Expect the Sharks to come out hard for Paul Gallen’s 329th game, becoming the Sharks’ most capped player of all time.
North Queensland Cowboys
Jason Taumalolo will be a huge out for the Cowboys, expecting to miss six to ten weeks after sustaining a medial ligament injury. Luckily for the Cowboys they have a lot of depth in the forwards with Josh McGuire slotting straight in to lock. Te Maire Martin has moved from five-eighth to fullback which brings nineteen year old young gun Jake Clifford into the side. Ben Hampton and Jordan Kahu move into the centres with Justin O’Neill and Tom Opacic dropped to reserve grade. Corey Jensen comes onto the bench for the injured Jason Taumalolo.
North Queensland Cowboys 21-man squad:
1. Te Maire Martin, 2. Nene Macdonald, 3. Jordan Kahu, 4. Ben Hampton, 5. Javid Bowen 6. Jake Clifford, 7. Michael Morgan, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Jake Granville, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Coen Hess, 13. Josh McGuire, 14. John Asiata, 15. Corey Jensen, 16. Mitchell Dunn, 17. Francis Molo, 18. Shane Wright, 19. Justin O’Neill, 20. Peter Hola, 21. Enari Tuala
The Sharks have named an unchanged list for the journey to Townsville on Saturday.
Cronulla Sharks 21-man squad:
Sharks: 1. Matt Moylan, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Sione Katoa, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Kurt Capewell, 13. Paul Gallen, 14. Blayke Brailey, 15. Jayson Bukuya, 16. Aaron Woods, 17. Jack Williams, 18. Scott Sorensen, 19. Kyle Flanagan, 20. Bronson Xerri, 21. Braden Hamlin-Uele
HEAD TO HEAD
The overall head-to-head sides with the Sharks, winning 25 of 42 and six of the last ten. The Cowboys have won four of the last six in Townsville and the heat may favour the home side. Over the past few years the two clubs have built up quite a rivalry and I can see this game continuing that. Both forward packs will provide us with a mouth-watering battle, Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior up against Matt Scott and Jordan McLean. Don’t forget the two locks in McGuire and Gallen, who will be eager rip in to each other.
The Cronulla backline is starting to gel which could cause problems for the Cowboys. Matt Moylan, Dugan and Johnson all have the power to create something from nothing so the Cowboys’ defence will need to be prepared. On the other hand, the speed of Ben Hampton and size of Nene McDonald could prove to be hard to handle with Michael Morgan at the helm. Look out for young gun Clifford’s kicking game and his attack close to the line. Johnson and Chad Townsend are slowly coming together and if they click expect tries.
Josh McGuire (North Queensland Cowboys) v Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks)
The key battle is a good one, Josh ‘Grub’ McGuire up against his old foe Gallen. The two have a strong history with each other, both players giving each other plenty of treatment in the past. The two locks have a similar style of play, with a strong running game and can be handy with the ball. Whoever can get the up on the other will lead the way for their forwards and build the foundations for the halves and backline to strike.
McGuire is coming off a strong game against the Broncos with 142 metres off 14 runs and 37 tackles. Gallen had a quiet game making 108 metres of 10 runs and 17 tackles. The veteran prop will be sure to pick it up this weekend celebrating his milestone. Watch these two hard men try to pester each other through the game, whoever can keep their head may well win the battle of the brutes.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 30th March
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
Kick-off: 5:30pm, AEST
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Phil Henderson
WHO WILL WIN?
The Sharks will come out strong celebrating Gallen’s 329th game, but the Cowboys at home are always hard to beat and will be eager to improve from last week. A very tough game to tip, but with the heat and the home advantage, Morgan will lead the Cowboys to a tight win.
Cowboys by 6.