North Queensland Cowboys vs Penrith Panthers at 1300 Smiles Stadium
Smiles stadium, Townsville
It takes place on Saturday 24th June at 3pm AEST.
The Cowboys & the Panthers have traditionally played out some absolute crackers in the far north & while this one will lose the added boost of being Johnathan Thurston’s 300th NRL game following victory, his injury in State of Origin game 2, there is every chance this Saturday afternoon contest could be an absolute classic.
Both sides currently sit in the lower reaches of the top 8, with the Cowboys in seventh & the Panthers a spot behind, but with just two points separating the pair & the Panthers having a superior point differential, a victory for the Westies could see them launch ahead of their hosts while a victory for the home side could see them jump ahead of early season guns, the Dragons.
The Panthers have made no change to the side that sprung the fast-finish of the ages on the Raiders in Bathurst while the Cowboys will lose Thurston & be sweating on the fitness of their other State of Origin representatives Michael Morgan, Gavin Cooper & Coen Hess while Justin O’Neill will be keen to lift & re-state his credentials following news of a Darius Boyd injury.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys will rely heavily on the direction set by Michael Morgan & former Panther Lachlan Coote in the absence of Johnathan Thurston while they will also be keen to see their big forward go head to head with an aggressive Penrith pack.
Jason Taumalolo remains 1 of the more devastating ball-runners in the league & with the help he has around him in the engine room, the home side are a match for most forward packs in the league while their outside backs are more than capable of taking their chances & scoring points.
The Cowboys are starting to find their feet & despite some narrow losses to strong contenders like the Sharks & Storm, they are starting to click & things are coming together nicely, though the disruption of an extended lack of Thurston could put that in jeopardy.
The Panthers pulled out all the stops in a last-minute victory against the Raiders in Bathurst, nabbing two tries in the last 90 seconds to snatch a vital two points & keep their victory streak alive & Anthony Griffin’s troops will be keen to keep pushing their title credentials & to continue to recover from their early season woes.
Matt Moylan appears to have made a semi-permanent switch to the halves alongside Nathan Cleary with youngster Te Maire Martin granted a release to join this week’s opponent while Dylan Edwards has seamlessly slipped in to the fullback role & looks at home alongside Josh Mansour & Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in the back three.
Trent Merrin got a small taste of Origin footy again when he was called up to the Blues camp & although the big man didn’t get a call-up, he has been playing some good footy over the last few weeks.
I think Panthers could be good enough verses a team reeling with loss of the best player in the game.
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