Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Mad dash for finals spots on in earnest as Tigers host Cowboys.
The Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys will run out on to Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night knowing a win is of the utmost importance given how tight the race for spots in the top eight has become this season.
The Tigers sit just one point out of the eight meaning a win could catapult them into the top half of the ladder, whilst a loss could see them slip three points in arrears. That is exactly the position their opponents currently find themselves in and a loss here would likely see the Cowboys booking their end of season holidays.
Coming off the back of three straight losses, the Tigers turned their fortunes around in Newcastle last weekend, knocking off the Knights on their home turf to put them back within striking distance.
Looking to put back to back wins together for just the third time this season, Coach Michael McGuire has named an unchanged line-up to the one which triumphed last week as he desperately looks to build consistency at the back end of the year.
Back-rower Michael Chee Kam will need to pass concussion protocols before being given the green light to lace his boots on Thursday night after suffering a head knock that landed him in hospital following last week's win.
Speaking of concussion, the Cowboys have received a massive boost with Captain Michael Morgan being named to return from a three week layoff following his second concussion in as many matches during the Origin decider.
His inclusion at five-eighth sees John Asiata pushed back to the interchange in Coach Paul Green's only change to the team that went down narrowly to the Sharks in Round 19.
The commitment of Green's men can't be questioned of late. They haven't lost by a margin greater than 12 for over 10 weeks now and that 12 point loss was only due to a couple of late tries at the hands of the Rabbitohs two weeks back. Still, close enough is never good enough in this competition and they simply must win to keep their season alive.
Last meeting: Round 14 2019 - Cowboys 26 Wests Tigers 27
Kyle Feldt and Michael Chee Kam both crossed for doubles for their respective teams, but it was Benji Marshall who played the hero - kicking a wobbly old field goal in golden point to earn his team the spoils.
The Cowboys will be looking to overturn a poor record at Thursday night's venue. The last and only win in ten attempts from a North Queensland team at Leichhardt Oval was back in 2000.
Who to watch: After notching a win and a try to boot in his 300th NRL game last week, Robbie Farah will be riding another wave of emotion this week after announcing he would hang up the boots at season's end. After starting the season in vintage form this year, Farah hit a bit of a flat spot in the middle parts of the year sharing hooking duties with young rake Jacob Liddle. He's now gone back to playing the full 80 the past couple of weeks and being the stubborn character he is, will be looking to make every post a winner as he endeavours to drive his beloved club towards a finals campaign for the last time.
Returning from concussion to lead his team out on Thursday evening, Michael Morgan will need to swiftly capture his very best to keep the Cowboys season alive. Lacking the attacking spark to get them over the line in recent weeks, a refreshed Morgan could be just the tonic they need to get them humming back into finals contention. Young half Jake Clifford has done a solid job steering the ship in his skipper's absence lately which should allow Morgan to play to his strengths and run the ball more.
The favourite: Despite three straight losses previously, the Tigers win last week combined with a home ground advantage have made them strong favourites here.
My tip: It's hard to ignore the Leichhardt factor and the advantage that gives the Tigers when considering this fixture, but that would be far more determining if the game was to be played on a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of a packed house - they're unlikely to get that same atmosphere on a Thursday night.
Tipping the upset here - The Cowboys have been putting in for some time now and have some good form lines around them. After upsetting the Roosters three weeks ago, they pushed the Rabbitohs all the way despite losing. They were a touch disappointing losing to the Sharks last week, but expecting them to bounce back with their season on the line in a tight grinding affair… Cowboys by 4.
1. Corey Thompson 2. Paul Momirovski 3. Moses Mbye 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Robbie Farah 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Michael Chee-Kam 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Matt Eisenhuth 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Alex Twal 17. Chris Lawrence
1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Coen Hess 4. Tom Opacic 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Michael Morgan 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Shane Wright 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. John Asiata 15. Matt Scott 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo
Referees: Grant Atkins, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sharpe, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Lowe;