By Dylan Morris, North Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
While much has been said of the contest between the two star packs – particularly Jason Taumalolo and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – there's an equally large battle looming for the backlines of both the Roosters and Cowboys.
Trent Robinson's side have attacking options from one wing to the other, with the likes of Daniel Tupou, Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson all running off Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce. Ferguson is also handy in the air, and at 101kg and 191cm is not exactly easy to stop.
This will all be matched by the defensive skills of North Queensland with Kane Linnett, Kyle Feldt, Justin O'Neill and Antonio Winterstein the men tasked with holding their line against a potent Roosters attack.
"They've got strike all over the park, Ferguson on the wing Latrell Mitchell in the centres, Mitchell Aubusson there… we've got a big battle on our hands but those are the ones we love… those battles against top-class players," Winterstein said.
The Cowboys are confident they're up to the task, having restrained the Eels' backs to only three tries in week two of the finals, two of which were against the run of play.
It was an impressive effort and one achieved in O'Neill's first game back from injury, with the centre hardly missing a beat after five weeks out.
"I think the biggest thing I was worried about was probably a bit of match fitness and just awareness of their defensive line, but last week's game was really good and I built a bit of confidence," O'Neill said.
"Both of their tries came from misreads in our defence or errors on our behalf on kick chases or kicks that favoured in their way."
"I think our defence was one of the things that stood out on the weekend."
"The Roosters' back five are very strong at getting their sets off to a [good] start, we're going to have to be really strong on that and if we can contain them it's a great step to winning the game."
The Cowboys' kick-chasers' job is made easier by halfback Michael Morgan's impressive kicking game, which forced four goal-line dropouts against Parramatta.
"Kick-chases are definitely an important part of the game so if we can get that right it's a good way to start a defensive set," he said.
First published on NRL.com.