Lachlan Coote | Photo: Scott Davis © NRLPhotos.com

PENRITH PANTHERS v NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS
7.30pm, Saturday 9 April, Pepper Stadium

Referee: Ashley Klein, Adam Gee
Review officials: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea, Jason Robinson
Touch judges: Jeff Younis, Dave Ryan

Cowboys: 4th (three wins, two losses): 6 points
Panthers: 11th (two wins,three losses): 4 points

TEAMS

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.

Panthers: 1 Matt Moylan (c), 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Peta Hiku, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Jamie Soward, 8 Sam McKendry, 9 Peter Wallace, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Bryce Cartwright, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14 Tyrone Peachey, 15 Lelani Latu, 16 Suaia Matagi, 17 James Fisher-Harris, 20 Elijah Taylor 21 Jeremy Latimore. Coach: Anthony Griffin.

CASUALTY WARD

Cowboys: Ray Thompson (ankle); Sam Hoare (knee); Kane Linnett (shoulder)
Panthers: James Segeyaro (arm); Dean Whare (calf)

MATCH FACTS

  • The Cowboys’ last-start 36-0 win over the Dragons leaves the side as the runaway leader in the for-and-against category despite having one less win than the 4-1 Broncos and Storm sides. The fourth-placed Cowboys sit behind those two heavyweights and the Raiders (three wins, one loss, one draw) with a 3-2 record but a massive points differential of +77 following big wins over the Dragons and the Roosters (40-0 in round 3). The Cowboys’ two losses have been narrow ones – four points to the Eels in Round 2 and a solitary point to the Broncos in Round 4. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have the league’s best attack (132 points scored) and best defence (55 points conceded) after five matches.

  • Good early-season form combined with the Cowboys’ under-20 side having four wins from their open five matches has North Queensland leading the club championship on 14 points, one clear of the Raiders.

  • Penrith lead the Cowboys all-time head-to-head 18-15, but the ledger is squared at eight wins apiece at Pepper Stadium.

  • The Cowboys have won six of the past eight clashes between the sides, including five of the past six.

  • Last year’s only match between the sides was a 30-10 road win to the Cowboys, which was part of the team’s record 11-match winning streak.

  • The Cowboys’ biggest win over Penrith was a 36-4 triumph in 2013, while the Panthers towelled up the North Queenslanders 56-6 in 2004.

  • The Cowboys have scored 22 tries to the Panthers’ 15 in season 2016.

  • The Cowboys average one try conceded per match to the Panthers’ three tries.

  • Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston’s golden run with the boot continued last weekend after he slotted six goals from six attempts against the Dragons to have 22 goals from 24 attempts for the season, a success rate of 92%. Bulldog Trent Hodkinson still has not missed a shot at goal in 2016, having hit 13 from 13.

  • Thurston is equal second in overall points scored (44) despite not having yet scored a try this season.

  • Thurston leads the NRL in try assists (8) and line break assists (6).

  • Back-rower Ethan Lowe is the equal second-best turnover tackler in the NRL, with six from five games.

  • Busy Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote has made the second-highest number of support runs in the NRL this season with 93, 13 shy of the Bulldogs’ Will Hopoate.

  • Coote receives the most kicks with 51. He has also effected three last-line-of-defence tackles.

MATCH UPS – THE NO.1s           

The role played by both teams’ in-form custodians could go a long way to determining the outcome of this one.

In Lachlan Coote, the Cowboys have a fearless ball runner and defender who plays well above his weight week-in, week-out.

Coote’s courage and willingness to support his ball runners have been standout features of his opening five matches this year.

The 26-year-old offers the Cowboys a third ball-playing option as well, and the way he helps out halves Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan in attack has played a big role in the Cowboys’ solid early-season form.

In Matt Moylan, the Panthers have an electric ball runner who can also play creator when called upon.

Coote features predominantly in several “effort area” statistical categories this season while Moylan’s class and skill can break a game open on the turn of a single play.

FINAL WORD

Paul Green: “I think our attack still hasn’t quite clicked yet but we’re competing well in the tough parts of the game.”

Jamie Soward (Panthers halfback): “He’s the best. He’s the best. I like playing against JT, I’ve got a lot of respect for him” – on coming up against Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston.