Preview: Tigers v Cowboys
VENUE & TIME: Campbelltown Sports Stadium - Sunday, May 27, 3pm AEDT, 5pm (NZT)
COVERAGE: Channel 9/Sky Sport
HEAD TO HEAD Played 24 - Tigers 13, Cowboys 11
LAST TIME: Round 19, 2011 - Tigers 38-18
MISSING IN ACTION: Good news for the Tigers with back-rower Chris Heighington returning from a broken hand. Chris Lawrence has been named in the centres despite a hamstring injury sustained last weekend. Joel Reddy is the man most likely to replace Lawrence if he fails to pass a late fitness test. Robbie Farah should be right to play after coming through Origin unscathed. The Cowboys suffered a huge blow with forward Tariq Sims suffering a double leg break which is likely to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. North Queensland had four players take part in Origin on Wednesday night with Neil Henry to make a decision on their fitness before kick-off.
FORM: It makes for good reading for both sides with the Tigers on a four-game winning streak while the Cowboys have won their past three. The Tigers came from 10-0 down to edge the Warriors 24-22 in probably their best performance of the season. After five straight losses earlier in the season, Tim Sheens’ side are slowly starting to show the form that had them as premiership favourites at the start of the year. The Cowboys did just enough to see off the Panthers last weekend, coming away with a 30-28 win. But the victory should give them plenty of confidence as it was done without four of their Origin stars, including skipper Johnathan Thurston.
FOR THE TIGERS TO WIN: North Queensland will attack them up the middle through their big forward pack in the hope of exposing any softness around the ruck. The Cowboys will then hope the speed and flair of Matty Bowen and Johnathan Thurston will exploit the space. But the Tigers have shown more skill and determination in recent weeks after being accused of being soft earlier in the season. They will need to continue that grinding play and tough defence to stifle the Cowboys. If they can do that then Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah will need big games to get the Tigers over the line.
FOR THE COWBOYS TO WIN: The visitors don’t really have to change too much here. They have the second best attack in the competition (behind Melbourne) and their defence is getting there too. The Cowboys have used a simple game plan for most of the season, rolling through their forwards before letting Thurston and Bowen do their thing. It has worked a treat so far and if they can do something similar on Sunday they are a good chance of coming out on top here.
WE THINK: This could be a defining match for the Tigers. While they have done well to recover their season with four straight wins, they haven’t exactly had to beat any of the competition heavyweights (possibly with the exception of the Warriors) in that time. But if there are any doubts around whether the Tigers are back, there’s no better way to dispel them with a win over the third-placed Cowboys. Neil Henry’s side have gone under the radar for much of the year but are a genuine title threat. This is arguably the match of the weekend and could go either way but home ground advantage might just swing it in the Tigers’ favour. Tigers by two points.
Tigers: 1. Tim Moltzen, 2. Matt Utai, 3. Beau Ryan, 4. Chris Lawrence, 5. Lote Tuqiri, 6. Blake Ayshford, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Keith Galloway, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Liam Fulton, 13. Chris Heighington
Interchange: 14. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 15. Curtis Sironen, 16. Matt Bell, 17. Tom Humble, 18. Joel Reddy (one to be omitted)
Cowboys: 1. Matthew Bowen, 2. Ashley Graham, 3. Brent Tate, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. Johnathan Thurston, 7. Ray Thompson, 8. Matthew Scott, 9. Aaron Payne, 10. James Tamou, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Glenn Hall, 13. Dallas Johnson
Interchange: 14. James Segeyaro, 15. Ricky Thorby, 16. Ashton Sims, 17. Jason Taumalolo, 18. Scott Bolton, 19. Kalifa Faifai Loa, 20. Cory Paterson (three to be omitted)
Referees: Ben Cummins/Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Chris Ward