NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v PARRAMATTA EELS
Round 20, 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership
7pm, Monday 27 July, 1300SMILES Stadium
Referees: Gavin Badger, Ashley Klein
Video referees: Steve Chiddy, Luke Phillips
Touch judges: Chris Sutton, Clayton Sharpe
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1, 4TOFM, Twitter@nthqldcowboys
NYC: 4.45pm, Monday 27 July
Cowboys: 2nd on ladder (13 wins, 4 losses): 30 points (2 bye)
Eels: 11th on ladder (7 wins, 10 losses): 18 points (2 byes)
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matt Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 James Tamou, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Rory Kostjasyn, 15 John Asiata, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Ben Hannant, 18 Sam Hoare.
Eels: 1 Reece Robinson 2 Semi Radradra 3 Will Hopoate 4 Brad Takairangi 5 Ryan Morgan 6 Joseph Paulo 7 Luke Kelly 8 Junior Paulo 9 Nathan Peats 10 Tim Mannah (c) 11 Manu Ma’u 12 Tepai Moeroa 13 David Gower. Interchange: 14 Pauli Pauli 15 Darcy Lussick 16 Daniel Alvaro
17 Isaac De Gois 18 Cody Nelson.
Cowboys: Tautau Moga (knee)
Eels: John Folau (leg), Chris Sandow (released), Corey Norman (knee), Richie Fa’aoso (shoulder), Anthony Watmough (knee), Danny Wicks (shoulder), Kaysa Pritchard (pec), Peni Terepo (pec), Beau Champion (knee), Kenny Edwards (knee)
- The Eels have been in turmoil this week with halfback Chris Sandow released – that plus a lengthy injury list means the Eels will go into Monday’s match with several key positional changes, including a new halves pairing in Joseph Paulo and Luke Kelly.
- Both sides are scoring an average of four tries per game this season, but the Eels also concede four tries, while the Cowboys concede three. Similarly, total points conceded per game is 23 for the Eels and just 19 for the Cowboys, a stat that underlines just how close the competition is, given this game is between the team ranked second and the team in 11th.
- The Cowboys have won five of the past eight clashes between the teams, while the Eels have the overall wood on the Cowboys with 17 wins compared to NQ’s 14. One game between the teams has been drawn. The Cowboys lead the Eels head-to-head in Townsville, winning seven and losing five.
- The Cowboys’ biggest win over the Eels was a 42-6 triumph in Townsville in 2012.
- Cowboys interchange forward John Asiata played one of his best games for the club last-start against the Sea Eagles, the versatile forward racking up 162 running metres from 17 carries and completing 19 tackles in 42 minutes of game time. The quietly-spoken former U20 Rooster proves himself a quality foil for damaging lock Jason Taumalolo and shows great hands in attack.
- After 19 rounds, the Cowboys have the fourth-highest home crowd average in the competition. The Cowboys welcome an average of 16,390 people through the gate, behind the Rabbitohs (16,671), the Bulldogs (21,263) and the Broncos (32,987).
- The Cowboys are runaway leaders in the competition for completed sets this season with 530, ahead of the Storm (516), Sharks (513) and Broncos (506).
- Johnathan Thurston is kicking at 81% this year, with 51 goals from 63 attempts.
- JT has 20 try assists this year, seven more than Dragon Benji Marshall and Tiger Luke Brooks.
MATCH UPS – THE PROPS
There will be plenty of big boppers on show at 1300SMILES Stadium on Monday night, with both teams’ front rows looming as key players in the round 20 contest.
For the Cowboys, State of Origin props James Tamou and Matt Scott will be looking to lead from the front in the Cowboys’ first home game in a month.
Tamou returns to action after a week out due to suspension while Scott will be playing his 199th NRL and Cowboys game, the co-captain set to bring up his 200-game milestone at 1300SMILES Stadium against the Raiders in round 21.
For the Eels, veteran captain Tim Mannah and the explosive Junior Paulo will look to physically get on top early.
Both teams have dynamic bench props in Ben Hannant (Cowboys) and young firebrand Pauli Pauli (Eels).
Cowboys prop Ben Hannant: "As a team, we’ve improved since then – our starts are getting better as well as defending our line" – on the Cowboys’ great escape against the Eels in round 13, where the team won 36-30 after trailing 30-6.
Eels assistant coach Steve Murphy: "We’re training really hard and we need to transfer what we’re doing on the training pitch to the playing field.”