2 days ago
Cowboys v Dragons preview
There might be something rotten in the state of Wollongong. The Dragons, runaway competition favourites hit a snag in recent weeks, and now, head to up to the humid temps of North Queensland, to a venue that they haven't won at since 2005, so we're set for an intriguing contest to round out the Saturday fixtures.
St George a brick wall at home, were penetrated by the nostalgia act of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, now the joint venture has slipped to third and in danger of another late season fade away. Their last two games against Eels and Tigers has had an air of arrogance, as the Dragons slept walked through the contest and whilst it worked against Parramatta, a vibrant Tigers team showed that these Saints aren't marching home in form.
So for the red and whites, they need to break the habit - get back to their simple style of football - through the forwards, leaving room for Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt to work magic that continues the misery for Johnathan Thurston on his farewell tour.
For the Cowboys, they haven't got going this season. Last year's runners up sit morosely in 15th, finals football out of reach, and their talisman in Thurston riding off into the sunset in six weeks. Can the old gunslinger find one more vintage performance, against a Dragons side that has stumbled with the return of Ethan Lowe and Justin O'Neill could obstruct the visitors again and maybe provoke some further thoughts of terror.
Last meeting: Round 7 2017 - Dragons 28 Cowboys 22
Who to watch: Halfway through his first full season in the National Rugby League, Matt Dufty has shown plenty that should lock up the custodian position for the famous red v for years to come. Recently though, the fullback hasn't been at his electrifying best and he needs to get back into the running game that sparked the Dragons early season form and should have room to operate against the Cowboys defense.
Like a single parent struggling at the supermarket, Thurston needs help! The halfback has carried the Cowboys through his entire tenure at the Queensland club, so can he muster another performance alongside maybe a huge performance from either Lachlan Coote or Jason Taumalolo is needed against a fearsome Dragons pack.
The favourite: Recent run of poor form aside, the Dragons are still expected to account for the Cowboys comfortably.
My tip: A week to freshen up their stars after origin, the Dragons need to get back to track, so they should handle a Cowboys team that looks to have packed up for the season. Dragons by 12.
18. Jake Clifford 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Enari Tuala 4. Kane Linnett 5. Justin O'Neill 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Shaun Fensom 17. Corey Jensen 20. Mitchell Dunn
1. Matthew Dufty 21. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 12. Tariq Sims 17. Luciano Leilua 13. Jack de Belin 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Kurt Mann 16. Leeson Ah Mau 19. Blake Lawrie
Referees: Adam Gee, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Sideline Officials: Alan Shortall, Rohan Best; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea;