NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
6.30pm, Saturday 2 April, 1300SMILES Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins, Gavin Reynolds
Review officials: Luke Patten, Jason Robinson
Touch judges: Adam Reid, Belinda Sleeman
Cowboys: 8th (two wins, two losses): 4 points
Dragons: 12th (two wins, two losses): 4 points
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matt Scott (c), 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. Coach: Paul Green.
Dragons: 1 Josh Dugan 2 Peter Mata’Utia, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafia, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Benji Marshall, 8 Leeson Ah Mau, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Russell Packer, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Joel Thompson, 13 Jack de Belin Interchange: 14 Mike Cooper, 15 Will Matthews, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Jake Marketo, 18 Jake Marketo. Coach: Paul McGregor.
Cowboys: Tautau Moga (knee), Ray Thompson (ankle), Sam Hoare (knee), Kane Linnett (shoulder)
Dragons: Ben Creagh (knee), Mose Masoe (knee), Dylan Farrell (back), Yaw Kiti Glymin (hamstring), Kurt Mann (ankle)
- The Cowboys have gone win-loss-win-loss in their opening four matches, while the Dragons dropped their first two games, but have been strong since, and are looking for a hat-trick of victories in Townsville.
- Cowboys co-captain and goal kicker Johnathan Thurston has started the season with the boot on-song: he has slotted 16 goals from 18 attempts across four games, his 89% conversion rates second in the comp behind the Knights’ Trent Hodkinson.
- The Dragons are completing at 75% so far this season to the Cowboys’ 74%.
- Thurston is leading the NRL in both try assists and line break assists with six apiece.
- Cowboys wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo is currently fifth in the league for running metres, with 654m across four games, or 163m on average per game. He is third for forwards, behind Tiger Aaron Woods (777m) and Bulldog James Graham (694m).
- Taumalolo’s teammate Ethan Lowe is equal first in the NRL for forcing turnovers in tackles with five so far.
- Dragons hooker Mitch Rein is the fourth busiest tackler so far, with 166 tackles made.
- Jake Granville makes the third-highest runs out of dummy half with 16, 12 behind Rein and two behind the Storm’s Cameron Smith.
- The Cowboys have won four of their past five matches against the Dragons, but honours are shared at four wins apiece across the past eight matches.
- Head-to-head, the Cowboys hold the edge 14-12, but have an overwhelming 78-2 advantage in games played at 1300SMILES Stadium.
- The Cowboys' biggest win over the Dragons was in 2000 with a 50-4 result in Townsville. The Dragons' triumphed 48-12 in Wollongong a year later.
- Despite a 50% win-loss record to start the year, the Dragons have only scored 40 points across four games to the Cowboys’ 96. The Dragons have the fewest points scored in the comp.
MATCH UPS – the hookers
Saturday’s clash pits Mitch Rein and Jake Granville, two of the most exciting number 9s in the competition, against each other, with both hookers explosive out of dummy half and sure to cause headaches for opposition forward packs around the ruck.
The stats back this up, with the two hookers ranking No.1 and No.3 respectively for dummy-half runs.
Rein is powerfully built and shows great strength with his running while Granville is lightning-quick off the mark, and showed that explosiveness against the Broncos last week with a classic hooker’s try down the blind side out of dummy half.
It could take a while for Granville and Rein to go head-to-head though, as Cowboys head coach Paul Green has in recent weeks shown a penchant for starting Rory Kostjasyn and bringing Granville off the bench.
Paul Green: “It’s important he plays his own game” – on debutante Javid Bowen
Peter Mata’Utia (Dragons winger): “They’ve got great depth in their team.”