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Johnathan Thurston | Photo: Scott Davis © NRL Photos

CRONULLA SHARKS v NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS
7pm, Monday 13 June, Southern Cross Group Stadium

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Adam Gee
Review officials: Bernard Sutton, Ben Galea, Jason Robinson
Touch judges: Nick Beashel, Rohan Best

Cowboys: 3rd (nine wins, four losses): 18 points
Sharks: 1st (10 wins, 2 losses, 1 bye): 22 points


TEAMS

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 John Asiata, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Ben Hannant, 18 John Asiata. Coach: Paul Green.

Sharks: 1 Ben Barba, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jack Bird, 4 Gerard Beale, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 James Maloney, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Michael Ennis, 10 Sam Tagataese, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14 Ricky Leutele, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jayson Bukuya 17 Joseph Paulo. Coach: Shane Flanagan.


CASUALTY WARD

Cowboys: Sam Hoare (knee/shoulder) – season; Kalyn Ponga (shoulder) – Round 17; Kyle Laybutt (arm) – Round 18; Ray Thompson (knee) – Round 18

Sharks: Matt Prior (knee) – indefinite


MATCH FACTS

  • Cronulla have the edge in head-to-head battles between the sides, winning 23 of 39 encounters.

  • Cronulla won 13 of the first 14 matches between the sides, but the Cowboys have clawed back some ground in recent times.

  • The Sharks have an 11-5 advantage at their home ground.

  • The Cowboys have won the past two matches between the sides, including a 20-14 triumph in Round 1. The Cowboys have won five of the past eight matches between the teams.

  • In terms of biggest wins between the sides, the Sharks downed the Cowboys 42-6 in 2000 while the boys from NQ returned serve 56-14 in 2005.

  • The Sharks have won their past nine games, including Monday night’s 20-18 thriller over the Bulldogs.

  • The Cowboys boast the second-best attack in the comp, having scored 356 points over 13 games.

  • The Sharks and the Cowboys have the equal third-best defence in the NRL, conceding 188 points, while the Cowboys boast the overall best points differential with +166. The Sharks are third on this front with +133.

  • The Cowboys score an overwhelming number of their tries from close range (0-20m out), with 45 of the 60 scored in 2016 fitting the bill.

  • They’ve scored just one long-range (51-100m) try so far this year, while the Sharks have scored nine of their 54 four-pointers from this distance.

  • Both teams score an average of five tries per match while the Cowboys concede two and the Sharks three.

  • Sharks winger Valentine Holmes has made 13 line breaks in 12 games this season, scoring 11 tries.

  • Holmes is the outright top try-scorer in the NRL, while Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt is one of four players with 10 tries, to be in equal second.

  • Cowboys custodian Lachlan Coote is leading the way in the comp with last-line-of-defence tackles, having made six this year.

  • The Cowboys have three players – Coote (10), Michael Morgan (10) and Johnathan Thurston (13) – in the top seven for try assists.

  • Holmes in the NRL’s intercept king with three this year.

  • James Tamou, John Asiata and Ben Hannant are the three Cowboys in the team named to take on the Sharks who haven’t scored tries this year.

MATCH UPS – O’NEILL v BIRD   

Slick Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill stood tall in his State of Origin debut for the Maroons last week, and backed up that effort with a solid showing against the Knights in his team’s comfortable Round 13 win.

The North Queensland product will face a sterner test against the Sharks on Monday night, and his duel with Jack Bird could be a feature of the match.

Bird is a NSW Blues player in waiting and, alongside the majority of this in-form team, has been in nice touch in 2016.

O’Neill is a fast and explosive player and won’t need a second invitation to breach the Sharks’ defence, while Bird is part of a creative backline featuring exciting Townsville product Valentine Holmes and Mackay’s Ben Barba, who is in the midst of a career resurgence.


FINAL WORD

Cowboys head coach Paul Green: “We’ve been fairly consistent with the team that we’ve been able to pick for a long time now, and we’ve been winning games as well.”

Sharks winger Valentine Holmes: “I reckon we can do up the Cowboys here. We’re on a high.”

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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