Match: Cowboys v Warriors
Round 15 -
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Recent form may not be in the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys' favour for their clash with the Warriors at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight, but one thing is on their side – history.
The Warriors have won just five times in 19 attempts at 1300SMILES Stadium – a winning percentage of just 26.3 per cent – their second worst record at any Australian ground.
Four of those five victories came before the 2003 season; since then the Cowboys have proved harsh hosts for the New Zealand-based outfit.
The Warriors' last 13 trips to North Queensland have resulted in just one victory, with the Cowboys winning the last three contests including a 24-12 triumph in Round 20 last season.
But the 2018 version are proving to be a different beast to the Warriors of old.
Stephen Kearney's men have shirked the inconsistencies which have plagued them in recent years to sit inside the top four through 14 rounds.
The Cowboys enter the clash in indifferent form.
After a memorable win over Manly with a depleted squad in Round 13, the Cowboys were upset by Parramatta in Darwin last weekend.
Head coach Paul Green has made a number of changes to his side for Friday night's encounter, with Justin O'Neill and Lachlan Coote dropping out of the side and veteran winger Antonio Winterstein rested.
After two impressive performances in his first games back from a pre-season pec tear, Kane Linnett moves to the left centre spot he has manned since 2012, while Javid Bowen takes over duties on the left wing.
Front-rower Scott Bolton has been named to return after a two-week stint on the sidelines with a rib cartilage issue, while State of Origin stars Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess will re-take their regular places in the starting side after beginning last week's match from the bench.
The Warriors' success has allowed Kearney to name a settled line-up for the majority of the season, led by a destructive back five.
Fullback and skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been in scintillating form in 2018, while David Fusitu'a leads the NRL with 15 tries, three clear of his nearest competitor.
Fellow winger Ken Maumalo has run for the eighth-most metres in the competition at an average north of 150 a game.
Halfback Shaun Johnson made a sensational return from injury in Round 14, scoring a try and setting up another two and will be a key man for the Cowboys to nullify on Friday night.