CANTERBURY BULLDOGS v NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS
7.50pm, Thursday 25 August, Belmore Sports Ground
Referees: Jared Maxwell, Chris James
Review officials: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten
Touch judges: Michael Wise, Rohan Best
Cowboys: 5th (13 wins, nine losses, two byes): 30 points
Bulldogs: 4th (14 wins, eight losses, two byes): 32 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 Ray Thompson, 10 James Tamou, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Rory Kostjasyn, 15 Coen Hess, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Patrick Kaufusi. Coach: Paul Green.
Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Kerrod Holland, 5 Curtis Rona, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Moses Mbye, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 James Graham (c), 11 Josh Jackson, 12 Greg Eastwood, 13 David Klemmer. Interchange: 14 Danny Fualolo, 15 Tim Browne, 16 Tony Williams, 17 Raymond Faitala-Marniner. Coach: Des Hasler.
Cowboys: Ben Hannant (knee) – Finals Week 1; Jake Granville (hand) – Round 26; Sam Hoare (knee/shoulder) – season; Patrick Mago (suspended) – season.
Bulldogs: Sam Kasiano (suspended) – Finals Week 2; Sam Perrett (neck) – Round 26.
KEY MATCH-UP – COWBOYS v BELMORE SPORTS GROUND
The stage is set for one of the regular season matches of the year with so much on the line in terms of final ladder positions heading into the finals series.
Put simply, if the Cowboys prevail against the Bulldogs tonight and against the Titans at 1300SMILES Stadium in Round 26, they will finish the season in fourth, earning a double chance in the post-season.
The Bulldogs currently sit two points above the NQ boys on the ladder, but if the sides finish on equal points, the Cowboys will finish fourth on the basis of a far superior points differential.
So all this means that the Cowboys, in order to give themselves the best chance of successfully defending their NRL premiership, will need to overcome not just a fired-up Bulldogs outfit – no doubt still smarting from their 36-0 defeat by the Cowboys in Round 20 – but a fervent home crowd at a packed suburban venue renowned for intimidating opposition teams.
The visitors will need to be on-task for the full 80 minutes and not get rattled by the crowd and any home ground penalties that may go against them.
Cowboys coach Paul Green: “I wanted to make sure he was fit and firing for this week” – on co-captain Matt Scott.
Bulldogs centre Josh Morris on the 36-0 scoreline the last time these sides met: “It was a tough loss to take and not scoring any points either really hurt. Personally myself, it takes me a couple of years to forget about losses like that and I'll certainly be using it as motivation on Thursday.”