Match Preview

Courtesy of sportal.com

Preview: Wests Tigers v Cowboys
Steve Orme, Sportal

VENUE & TIME: Leichhardt Oval, Sunday July 19, 3.00pm (AEST)
COVERAGE: Channel Nine
LAST TIME: Cowboys 42 - Tigers 14, at Dairy Farmers Stadium, Round 2, 2009.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Tigers have to wait one more week for the return of centre Dean Collis (forearm), while prop Keith Galloway (knee) is expected back on deck in a fortnight. Chris Heighington (leg) and Dene Halatau (knee) both face a further month on the sidelines. The Cowboys will be without the services of Luke O’Donnell for up to six weeks after the NSW forward suffered medial ligament damage against the Sharks. The news is even worse for hooker Aaron Payne who suffered a torn pectoral in the same match and will miss the rest of the season. Skipper Johnathan Thurston has taken the early guilty plea on his dangerous contact charge resulting from his feet-first tackle on David Williams. He is free to play provided his body holds up after a bruising Origin III, while his Maroons team-mates Willie Tonga and Matt Scott are also both expected to back up.

FORM: Tim Sheens finally had reason to smile following his side’s 10-try demolition of South Sydney. Unfortunately, it was only their second win in their previous nine outings and it would seem that pesky horse that is the NRL finals series has already bolted - again. The Cowboys did enough to defeat a committed Sharks side before the bye. But while they are well placed in fifth spot with eight rounds to go, they need to make significant strides if they hope to challenge for the premiership this season.

WHO’S HOT: Robbie Farah was a man on a mission against Cronulla after his shocker in Origin II. He had a hand in all but a couple of the Tigers’ 10 tries in easily his best performance of the year. Benji Marshall soldiered on despite suffering from a virus and looked much more comfortable back in the No.6 jumper. Thurston single-handedly steered the Cowboys to victory against the Sharks to once again show why he is regarded as the game’s most polished performer.

WE THINK: There’s no time like the present for the Tigers, another loss here and they can definitely start planning for next season. Much will depend on whether Thurston is available to back up, but with O’Donnell and Payne out of action the Cowboys’ supporting cast must also step up in order to collect the points. Look for Farah to play another dominant hand and lead the hosts to a narrow win. Tigers by six.

Tigers:
1. Shannon Gallant, 2. Taniela Tuiaki, 3. Blake Ayshford, 4. Chris Lawrence, 5. Beau Ryan, 6. Benji Marshall, 7. Tim Moltzen, 8. Bryce Gibbs, 9. Robbie Farah ©, 10. Todd Payten, 11. Gareth Ellis, 12. Danny Galea, 13. Corey Payne
Interchange: 14. Josh Morris, 15. Alan Shirnack, 16. John Skandalis, 17. Simon Dwyer

Cowboys:
1. Matthew Bowen, 2. Michael Bani, 3. Ty Williams, 4. Willie Tonga, 5. John Williams, 6. Grant Rovelli, 7. Johnathan Thurston ©, 8. Shane Tronc, 9. Anthony Watts, 10. Matthew Scott, 11. Carl Webb, 12. Scott Bolton, 13. Steve Southern
Interchange: 14. Travis Burns, 15. Steve Rapira, 16. Antonio Kaufusi, 17. James Tamou, 18. Manase Manuokafoa

Pretty hard to argue with, Tigers by 6 sounds like a fair prediction at the moment.

I’d hold off until Saturday or so if your looking to have a punt on the Tigz though, I expect a bit of money to go on the Cowgirls at those odds and the Tigers could inflate from $1.67 to $1.80 or so :slight_smile:

Wow, I didn’t know that Robbie played for us against souths and then starred for the cowboys against cronulla. Mr Everywhere these days!

both teams are coming off the bye.
would be very pleasing for wests-tigers to win in the final game at Leichhardt Oval this year.
cowboys have a couple of players backing up from Origin, do not treat them lightly otherwise it maybe a long afternoon.
I still believe that wests-tigers can win this game.
no pushing stupid pass when its not on. 😠

From the NRL website:

Wests Tigers v Cowboys
Leichhardt Oval
Sunday 3pm

The football gods have smiled on the Wests Tigers this week; just when they desperately need a win they return to Leichhardt Oval with fresh players and come up against a side hit hard by injuries.

Currently sitting in11th place on the NRL ladder Tim Sheens’ side cannot afford any more losses as they are already two wins outside the finals zone and time is running out fast.

They might be coming up against a Cowboys side that is sitting much more comfortably in fifth place on the ladder, but circumstances have shifted the favouritism in this match back to the home side.

They obviously love Leichhardt Oval and play much better there, particularly on Sunday afternoons.

They do not have to sweat on hooker and captain Robbie Farah getting through Origin, after New South Wales selectors left him out of the final game, while the Cowboys have to hope with fingers crossed their skipper Johnathan Thurston gets through unscathed.

And they get to take on the boys from the north without their key players Luke O’Donnell and Aaron Payne, who were both hurt in their last-up win.

The Tigers’ side looks similar to the one that pummelled the Rabbitohs before the bye last week with the only changes coming on the bench. Dene Halatau and Daine Laurie are out with Alan Schirnack and rookie Simon Dwyer coming in.

The Cowboys took a massive hit injury-wise against the Sharks before the bye and must react as soon as possible.

Anthony Watts comes in at hooker to replace Payne, while Steve Southern moves to lock and Carl Webb comes into the back row to cover for O’Donnell.

There are three new faces on an extended bench in Manase Manuokafoa, James Tamou and Travis Burns.

Watch out Wests Tigers: Don’t let the Cowboys get close to your try line as they will almost certainly breach it. The Cowboys have scored more tries from within 10 metres of the line than any other team in the NRL, with a whopping 49 – a massive 14 tries ahead of the next best and 27 more than the Tigers from the same range.

The Tigers are certainly more prolific at scoring tries from 11-20 metres, 21-50 metres and 51+ metres but with the Cowboys good enough to work their way into position often they may well take charge of the match early.

The Tigers’ defence must steel itself and force the Cowboys to chance their arm from distance, something they struggle to pull off.

Watch out Cowboys: The Wests Tigers’ attacking kickers have been given a licence to bring out their short-kicking skills in a bid to split the Cowboys’ defence.

The Cowboys are having trouble successfully defusing chip kicks, grubber kicks and banana kicks so look for Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall, or even John Morris and Tim Moltzen, to take advantage.

North Queensland only successfully negotiate 50 per cent of chip kicks to be ranked 15th, 77 per cent of grubbers to be ranked 12th and 50 per cent of banana kicks to be ranked 11th out of 13 teams (three sides haven’t had to negotiate any banana kicks this season).

Where it will be won: Around the ruck and particularly the battle of the dummy-halves. This spells trouble for the Cowboys as Aaron Payne was a crucial link in their success and we are yet to see how Anthony Watts goes filling his enormous boots.

Watts comes up against it in his first attempt, with a spurned Robbie Farah ready to prove he should have been retained for Origin III. Farah is a brilliant hooker for the modern game. He is tough enough to defend hard, yet still has the energy to both direct play and create chances. He runs for 85 metres a match, kicks for 243 metres, has eight line breaks (seven of which are from dummy-half), 15 line-break assists, five tries and 16 try assists.

Invariably when Farah plays well the Wests Tigers win and that was certainly the case in their last-start hammering of Souths.

Watts has been a fill-in hooker off the bench this season but his stats obviously don’t compare to Farah’s due to his lack of minutes. He does, however, have four line breaks, all from dummy-half, in his seven games. If Watts can ensure the Cowboys’ forwards keep rolling into the right holes and service Thurston when it is appropriate, the visitors will remain in the contest.

It is important to note these two teams are the two most prolific at scoring tries from dummy-half this year. The Cowboys rank tops with nine while the Wests Tigers rank second with eight.

The history: Played 20; Wests Tigers 9, Cowboys 11. The 2005 grand final combatants come together with the Cowboys having gotten the better of the Tigers earlier this season to the tune of 42-14 in Townsville, their biggest ever win over the Tigers. However the Tigers had won the three previous encounters.

There have been three previous games between the two clubs at Leichhardt, with the Wests Tigers winning two of them. The last match at the venue between the sides resulted in the Wests Tigers’ greatest winning margin over the Cowboys.

Should we expect another blow-out? Maybe… it does set up to be a high-scoring affair.

Conclusion: It is important to wait to see if Johnathan Thurston makes it through Origin before picking this game, as without him the Cowboys would have very little hope of getting a result but with him they are still a chance.

However if the Wests Tigers are serious about making a charge for the finals this is a match they simply must win. They should be more desperate and they have the benefit of playing a weakened side at home.

Have faith in them to win here but if they falter, no-one will blame you if you don’t keep said faith in the future.

Match officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Paul Holland & Adam Reid; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Channel Nine – Delayed 4pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 4.30pm Monday.

From the SMH:

Wests Tigers v North Queensland
Greg Prichard | July 17, 2009

Sunday, Leichhardt Oval, 3pm
Referees: Shayne Hayne, Matt Cecchin
Head to head: Cowboys 11, Tigers 9
Last clash: Cowboys 42 bt Tigers 14 at Dairy Farmers Stadium (Rd 2, 2009)
TAB Sportsbet: Tigers $1.60, Cowboys $2.30
Centrebet: Tigers $1.63, Cowboys $2.2

The Tigers go back to their spiritual home for a very important game against the Cowboys. The Tigers thrashed the Rabbitohs 54-20 and then had the bye, and if they come out of the bye with another win here they could push to just two points outside of the top eight, depending on other results this weekend. It’s now or never for the Tigers. If they’re going to make a run it has to be now. There isn’t enough time left for them to drop off again and then make another run. They have played twice at Leichhardt this season, for a win over the Storm and a loss to the Panthers. But both of those games were played at night, and Sunday afternoon is when the atmosphere created by an anticipated big crowd should really kick in.

The Cowboys are not road warriors. They have lost five and won just two of their away games this season, and after their most recent away loss - against the Bulldogs - their coach, Neil Henry, expressed his concern that the Cowboys wouldn’t get to where they wanted to be this season if they didn’t lift their form on the road. Since then, the Cowboys have won at home against the Sharks, and then had the bye. Sydney has been a particularly bad hunting ground for the Cowboys, who have not won anywhere in that city since round 22 of the 2007 season.

The Tigers continue to be bugged by injuries, with Chris Heighington, Keith Galloway, Dean Collis and Peni Tagive all still out. The Cowboys are also without several players - most notably star forward Luke O’Donnell - and have Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Willie Tonga backing up from Origin. The Tigers are favourites - obviously based heavily on the home-ground advantage. But if the Cowboys can get it together on the road they are obviously well capable of winning this one.

Tigers must cash in at home
Greg Prichard | July 18, 2009

Wests Tigers v North Queensland

Tomorrow, Leichhardt Oval, 3pm

What the Tigers say

Coach Tim Sheens pumped up hooker and captain Robbie Farah’s tyres after NSW played State of Origin III without him. “I don’t think Robbie was happy with his second [Origin] game, but I’ve always maintained I wouldn’t swap Robbie for any hooker, and I still maintain that,” Sheens said.

What the Cowboys say

North Queensland representative back-rower Luke O’Donnell pumped up the tyres of the players who have recently come into the team for him and other injured Cowboys. “There are a lot of good, young players, and some of the guys who have been playing a lot of reserve grade have played the top-line stuff,” O’Donnell said.

What Prichard says

This one will likely rock the foundations of the grandstand at the famous old ground. There is so much riding on it, with the 11th-placed Tigers needing to get a winning run going now or forget about it as far as making the finals is concerned. As for the fifth-placed Cowboys, they are still chasing a top-four spot but, perhaps even more importantly, they need to prove to themselves that they can win a big game on the road. There is a genuine rivalry between these teams that goes back to 2005, when they squared off in the grand final. The Tigers haven’t made the finals since, and the heat is on them to turn that run around. The Cowboys have only won two and lost five away from home this season, and their victims were the Sharks and Warriors - hardly competition heavyweights. But I’ve got a feeling they will have concentrated hard on this game as a key one, and will get away with the win.

For the Tigers to win

They are going to have to get physical, big time. They would love to have injured forwards Chris Heighington and Keith Galloway available for a match like this, but they still have a forward pack capable of muscling up against the Cowboys. Leichhardt is likely to be packed, and the crowd will be only too willing to back their boys. If they see the Tigers putting their bodies on the line from the start, they will roar the house down, and that sort of encouragement has spurred the Tigers to plenty of wins at this ground in the past.

For the Cowboys to win

It would be a huge advantage to them if they took the lead early, and managed to keep the crowd at bay, but before they can hope to do anything, they must meet the challenge the Tigers will put to them up front. They can’t be making silly mistakes and giving away stupid penalties - not at Leichhardt. That would just send the Tigers on their way to a win. The Cowboys have to grind away up front, work hard to try to force mistakes and then hand the reins over to the likes of halfback Johnathan Thurston and fullback Matt Bowen to try to weave some of their magic.

The X-factor

Willie Tonga. The State of Origin series will have been good for Tonga. He hadn’t been in that arena since 2004, and getting back there for Queensland will just reinforce his self-belief. Look to the former Bulldogs star to back himself more and more when he gets the ball.

What the bookies say

They don’t like the Cowboys on the road. Head-to-head with TAB Sportsbet, it’s $1.60 the Tigers and $2.30 the Cowboys. The points start is 3½, at $1.90 either way.

Late mail

Farah has been treated for tonsilitis, but will play. Queensland prop Matt Scott remains in doubt for the Cowboys after hurting his knee in Origin III. A decision will be made on him today.

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