Cowboys v Dragons PREVIEW

NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Round 17, 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership
7.30pm, Saturday 4 July, WIN Stadium

Referees: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Reynolds
Video referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea
Touch judges: Russell Turner David Ryan
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1, 4TOFM
Updates: twitter.com/nthqldcowboys
Cowboys: 2nd on ladder (11 wins, 4 losses): 24 points (1 bye)
Dragons: 4th on ladder (8 wins, 6 losses): 20 points (2 byes)

TEAMS

Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Ray Thompson, 7 Robert Lui, 8 Ben Hannant, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Sam Hoare, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Rory Kostjasyn, 15 John Asiata, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Patrick Kaufusi, 18 Glenn Hall 20 Ben Spina.

Dragons: 1 Jason Nightingale 2 Kiti Glymin 3 Euan Aitken 4 Peter Mata’utia  5 Eto Nabuli 6 Gareth Widdop 7 Benji Marshall 8 Leeson Ah Mau 9 Mitch Rein 10 Ben Creagh (c) 11 Will Matthews 12 Jake Marketo 13 Mike Cooper. Interchange: 14 Nathan Green 15 George Rose 16 Rory O’Brien 17 Heath L’Estrange 18 Craig Garvey.

CASUALTY WARD

Cowboys: Tautau Moga (knee), Javid Bowen (shoulder), Hezron Murgha (concussion)
Dragons: Jack de Belin (virus), Joel Thompson (knee), Tyson Frizell (back), Dylan Farrell (back), Dan Hunt (knee)

MATCH FACTS

  • The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys had their club-record 11-match winning streak snapped last weekend when the Sharks won 24-18 at 1300SMILES Stadium. Three of the Cowboys’ four losses this year have been at home, while they have only lost once on the road, against the Broncos in round 3.
  • The Cowboys have not been defeated in New South Wales this season.
  • This Saturday’s match will be the second time this season the Cowboys will be without their State of Origin players. In their round 11 match against the Wests Tigers, the undermanned Cowboys defended grimly to eke out an 8-0 win over the Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
  • The teams have played each other 25 times, with the Cowboys 13 and the Dragons 12. The Cowboys are five wins, six losses against the Dragons at WIN Stadium. The teams are four wins apiece in their past eight clashes.
  • North Queensland’s biggest win over the Dragons was a 50-4 victory in Townsville in 2000.
  • Dragons maestro Benji Marshall has two successful 40/20 kicks this season.
  • The Cowboys are ranked first in the competition for completed sets with 459, while the Dragons are ranked 11th with 452.
  • Giant Cowboys prop Sam Hoare has been a semi-regular fixture off the bench this season. The 23-year-old 195cm, 115kg behemoth has played in five matches, and this weekend’s fixture against the Dragons will be his second start. In the other matches, coach Paul Green has largely used him for short stints. He was given extended minutes in the Intrust Super Cup for the Mackay Cutters last weekend – with one eye on the Dragons clash given the Cowboys would be without James Tamou and Matt Scott due to State of Origin III – and played 65-plus minutes. He was awarded the players’ player in a losing Cutters side.
  • Talk about doing the one percenters – Cowboys players Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper rank three and four in the NRL for decoy runs, with 109 and 108 respectively.

MATCH UPS – Ray Thompson & Robert Lui v Gareth Widdop & Benji Marshall      

This will be a fascinating battle as the Dragons’ star halves pairing come up against the Cowboys “replacements”.

Almost everything the Dragons throw up in attack goes through either Widdop or Marshall, and with the Dragons hit by Origin and injuries, the focus on this duo will be ratcheted up even further.

For the Cowboys, Thompson and Lui will come in for plenty of attention given Thompson is coming back from a fractured cheekbone and Lui has seen few NRL minutes this year.

FINAL WORDS

Cowboys coach Paul Green: "There’s just a few more attacking options with those two in the halves" – on Ray Thompson and Robert Lui combining in the halves against the Dragons.

Dragons captain Ben Creagh: “The two guys they’re (the Cowboys) putting in there (in the halves) have plenty of (NRL) experience."