Photo: Charles Knight © NRL Photos

Cowboys v Storm PREVIEW

NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v MELBOURNE STORM
7.30pm, Saturday 30 July, 1300SMILES Stadium

Referees: Ben Cummins, Dave Munro
Review officials: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten, Jason Robinson
Touch judges: Brett Suttor, Michael Wise

Cowboys: 3rd (12 wins, six losses, two byes): 28 points
Storm: 2nd (15 wins, three losses, two byes): 34 points


TEAMS

Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Javid Bowen, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6. Michael Morgan, 7 Ray Thompson, 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.

Storm: 1 Cameron Munster, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu 3 Will Chambers, 4 Cheyse Blair, 5 Marika Koroibete, 6 Blake Green, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Felise Kaufusi, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Matt White, 17 Young Tonumaipea.


CASUALTY WARD

Cowboys: Johnathan Thurston (hamstring) – being monitored; Kyle Laybutt (hand) – Round 22; Sam Hoare (knee/shoulder) – season; Kyle Feldt (suspended) – Round 23; Patrick Mago (suspended) – season.

Storm: Jordan McLean (ankle) – Round 23; Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle) – Round 25; Tim Glasby (shoulder) – indefinite; Billy Slater (shoulder) – season.


MATCH FACTS

  • History: Played 31; Storm 21, Cowboys 10 – North Queensland have won three of the last five games between the two teams and the last two meetings in Townsville. The Storm lead 11 to six at 1300SMILES Stadium.

  • The teams have split their past eight matches.

  • The Cowboys’ biggest win over the Storm was a 40-8 result in 2006 while Melbourne have twice beaten the Cowboys 58-12 – once in 2007 and again three years later.

  • 2016 points for: Cowboys 462, Storm 444; points against: Cowboys 253, Storm 208. 

  • Tries this season: Cowboys 76, Storm 77

  • Completions in 2016: Cowboys 78%, Storm 77%

  • The Storm have scored 10 long-range tries (51-100m out) to the Cowboys’ two this season.

  • Both teams score an average of four tries a match and concede two tries apiece.

  • The Storm boast the top-two metre-eaters between the clubs this season, with fullback Cameron Munster (168m) and winger Marika Koroibete (166m) leading the way, just ahead of Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo (165m).

  • The Storm have the top-three average tacklers in Cameron Smith (41), Dale Finucane (35) and Kevin Proctor (32), ahead of North Queensland’s Ethan Lowe (32).

  • Storm flyer Suliasi Vunivalu is the NRL’s leading try-scorer with 17 four-pointers in 12 games.

  • The two teams rank first and second in the comp for completed sets – Storm 575; Cowboys 553.

  • Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote has 182 kick receipts, the most in the comp by some 30, with the Sharks’ Ben Barba second.

  • Storm pair Dale Finucane and Jesse Bromwich lead the comp in decoy runs with 153 and 136 respectively.

KEY MATCH-UP – MORGAN v CRONK   

Potentially no Johnathan Thurston means Michael Morgan will be the man to lead the Cowboys' attack.

It's a role he has already proved he is more than capable of assuming, having already reached double digits for try and line break assists this season.

Morgan has also scored three tries in his last two games against Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Cronk has displayed try-scoring feats of his own this year, having crossed the line 10 times to reach double digits for the third time in his career.

You can add this to the 15 try assists he has put in for teammates in 2016.

JT may not be there on Saturday night but the battle of the halves will still be packed with highlights.


FINAL WORD

Cowboys coach Paul Green: “They’re the form team of the comp at the moment. We’ll have to be playing well to compete with them.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy: “The Cowboys have got the best team they’ve ever had at their club, winning the premiership last year and they’ve been playing some great football this year.”