NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS NYC v NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS NYC
5.15pm, Saturday 20 August, 1300SMILES Stadium
Referee: Liam Kennedy
Touch judges: Wyatt Raymond, Jack Ebert
Sunday’s Round 24 clash pits team No.3 the Cowboys (13 wins, seven losses, one draw for 31 points) versus team No.13 in the Warriors (8 wins, 13 losses for 20 points).
Both teams were last-start losers – the Cowboys put in another below-par showing to lose 42-24 to top-two rivals the Roosters and have now surrendered that coveted No.2 spot on the ladder to the boys from Bondi.
Meanwhile, the Warriors' inconsistent season continued last weekend with a 30-20 loss to second-last placed Rabbitohs, who – coincidentally – have twice beaten the Cowboys in 2016.
Two weeks ago, the Warriors defeated runaway competition leaders Penrith 30-28, to hand the defending premiers just their second loss of the season.
Penrith have since dropped a third match, to the tenth-placed Newcastle team.
The Warriors are still a faint hope of making the finals but need to win all of their games and are relying on the Raiders to lose all of theirs.
The Cowboys can climb back into the top two with a win over the Warriors and a Dragons victory over the Roosters.
Personnel-wise, coach Aaron Payne has left lock Emry Pere and back-up hooker Duarne Dempsey out of the team that fell to the Roosters.
Captain and halfback Cooper Bambling returns, prompting a backline reshuffle that means Dempsey ultimately moves out of the 17.
Back-rower Corey Horsburgh comes in for Pere, but will start off the interchange bench while Tahanui Tutavake moves into the starting side.
Cowboys: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Gideon Gela-Mosby, 3 Bacho Salam, 4 Enari Tuala, 5 Marcus Jensen, 6 Ty Carucci, 7 Cooper Bambling (c), 8 Darryn Schonig, 9 Brandon Smith, 10 Ross Bella, 11 Cody Maughan, 12 Hiale Roycroft, 13 Tahanui Tutavake. Interchange: 14 Nathan Traill, 15 Corey Horsburgh, 16 Kaleb Fuimaono, 17 Nick Lui Toso. Coach: Aaron Payne.
Warriors: 1 Kane Telea, 2 Lewis Soosema, 3 Melino Fineanganofo, 4 Junior Pauga, 5 Matt Faitotoa, 6 Ata Hingano, 7 Chanel Harris-Tavita, 8 Kenese Kenese, 9 Sheldon Pitama (c), 10 Mattais Heimuli, 11 Joseph Vuna, 12 Marata Niukore, 13 Chris Sio. Interchange: 14 Tyler Mohi, 15 Cyrus Timo-Latu, 16 Joseph Price, 17 Jerome Mamea. Coach: Kelvin Wright.
COACH AARON PAYNE: “We’ve made some changes, had some real frank discussions and every player knows they’re on notice and accountable.”