MELBOURNE STORM v NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS
5.30pm, Saturday 14 May, Suncorp Stadium
*Tickets sold out
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Devcich
Review officials: Bernard Sutton, Jason Robinson, Ben Galea
Touch judges: Michael Wise, Rohan Best
Cowboys: 1st (seven wins, two losses): 14 points
Storm: 3rd (seven wins, two losses): 14 points
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 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 Patrick Kaufusi, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Ben Hannant. Coach: Paul Green.
Storm: 1 Cameron Munster, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Tohu Harris, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Cheyse Blair, 6 Blake Green, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Tim Glasby, 16 Christian Welch, 17 Nelson Asofa- Solomona. Coach: Craig Bellamy.
Cowboys: Sam Hoare (knee/shoulder) – season
Storm: Will Chamber (foot), Matt White (calf), Richie Kennar (foot), Marika Koroibete (knee), Jeremy Hawkins (hamstring), Billy Slater (shoulder)
- The Cowboys can boast the best attack – based purely on points scored – in the comp. North Queensland have piled on 265 points in their nine games to date.
- By the same measure, the Storm have the NRL’s best defence, conceding a miserly 110 points.
- The Cowboys have a superior points differential: +140 compared with the Storm +98.
- The Cowboys have scored 45 tries to the Storm’s 37; both sides have conceded 19 tries.
- The Cowboys have scored just the one try from long-range (51-100m out) compared with the Storm scoring from long range five times.
- The Cowboys have completed 180 runs/hit-ups to the Storm’s 179; the Storm get slightly more effectiveness from those runs, making 1,566m to the Cowboys’ 1,563.
- In head-to-head clashes, the Storm have won 20 matches to the Cowboys’ 10.
- The last meeting between the sides was in the 2015 preliminary final, won by the Cowboys 32-12 in Melbourne.
- The Cowboys have won five of the past eight clashes between the sides, including three of the past four.
- In 2006, the Cowboys beat the Storm 40-8. The Storm have twice beaten the Cowboys 58-12: in Townsville in 2007, and in Melbourne in 2010.
- Both sides enter the match on winning runs: the Cowboys have won their past five matches; the Storm their past three.
- Across both teams, the Storm can boast the two most prolific tacklers: skipper Cameron Smith (41 tackles per match) and Dale Finucane (37). Melbourne’s Kevin Proctor and the Cowboys’ second-row duo of Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper all average 32 tackles per match.
- Both teams put 30-plus points on their opposition last start: Storm shut out the Titans 38-0 while the Cowboys were strong on the road against Manly, winning 34-18.
MATCH UPS – CAMERON MUNSTER v LACHLAN COOTE
It’s a case of two in-form fullbacks, two different styles.
The Storm’s Munster has been an admirable replacement for long-term injured Storm stalwart Billy Slater.
The dynamic youngster is a great ball runner and has seamlessly combined with veteran playmakers Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk almost as effectively as his predecessor.
Look for Munster to chime into the backline at various times. Coote is more the ball-player and is in sensational form for the Cowboys.
He offers a third attacking option at the line, while his left-foot kicking game is well-utilised each week.
Coote is also strong defensively, both in organising teammates from the back and defending the Cowboys’ line with myriad one-on-one try-savers.
Cowboys coach Paul Green: “We had quite a number of players involved in all the (rep round) games over the weekend. It was a little bit ‘hold your breath’ … but luckily enough we got through it well.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy: “They [Cowboys] are playing as well as they were last year when they won the competition. They havn’t had too many injuries with their team either, they’ve been very stable with their 17 each week.”