Round 19: North Queensland v Melbourne preview
David v Goliath heads to Townsville this weekend as an out-of-form North Queensland play host to a rampant and high-flying Melbourne Storm who would be short odds to crack the 40-point mark on Saturday night.
The North Queensland Cowboys have been able to start fast over the past fortnight but turning that into an 80-minute performance has been something that they have struggled with after leading both the Rabbitohs and Roosters early on. Last weekend, the Cowboys were able to start fast up against the Roosters when they looked strong in the opening 20 minutes leading 12-0 before they were blown off the park by the ‘tricolours' eventually falling to a 34-18 defeat.
The Cowboys season has been far from ideal as they sit down in 13th on the ladder with just six wins from their 17 games this season. The Cowboys have struggled to find consistency this season and they are on a five-game losing streak which doesn't look to turn around suddenly especially coming up against a Storm side in good form.
A season-ending injury to Javid Bowen has forced the Cowboys into a number of changes with Murray Taulagi moves into the centres whilst Kane Bradley is set to debut on the wing. The Cowboys also enjoy the return of Heilum Luki who missed last week through suspension.
On the other end of the form scale, the Melbourne Storm have stamped themselves as premiership heavyweights on the competitions having won 15 of their 17 games this season. Last weekend, the Melbourne Storm were at their scintillating best as they scored a dominant 48-4 victory over the Newcastle Knights on the Gold Coast. The effort from the Storm was purple domination from start to finish as they were again able to lead 30-0 at the break before they lifted off the pedal only scoring 18 points in the second half and conceding the one try.
Sitting in first position on the ladder, the Melbourne Storm are equal on points with the Panthers but at the same time the domination of Melbourne is on show as they have a 108 point better for and against compared to the Panthers (+434 / +326). Unlike most other teams, the Storm haven't struggled to find consistency which is ominous for the competition.
The Storm have been boosted by the naming of Ryan Papenhuyzen on the bench but at this stage is no guarantee to play on the weekend which if playing will ease the burden of Cameron Munster being rested. After backing up from origin 3, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi are being rested whilst Josh Addo-Carr and Christian Welch return after being rested in the game against Newcastle.
Who to watch: Being paired with a poor halves partner, Scott Drinkwater's reputation has suffered as he hasn't been able to control the game to the extent that the Cowboys have wanted and given Tom Dearden's poor form, the Cowboys have struggled and it's been left up to Drinkwater to pull of the miracles for the Cowboys.
Jahrome Hughes has been a key player for the Storm over recent weeks and his starring performance against the Knights will be key given that his usual halves partner Cameron Munster is being rested. Hughes can change the game in an instant and will be something to look out for on Saturday.
The favourite: Storm are heavy favourites.
My tip: Sorry Cowboys fans but a Melbourne forfeit is the only way they'll lose this one; The Cowboys on their best day still don't match Melbourne on a good day and the form of the Storm mean that it's impossible to not expect them to rack up their 12th 40 point tally of the year and if not go beyond the half century mark. Melbourne by 40.