Schick Hydro Preview: North Queensland Cowboys v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Friday, 7.05pm (AEST)
The North Queensland Cowboys will host the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Townsville on Friday night, and both teams will be eager to improve on their last performances.
The Cowboys downed an understrength Gold Coast Titans, but leaked 26 points, with two tries coming within the last five minutes of the game where the Cowboys are typically at their best.
They'll be keen to prove that they haven't lost their defensive grit, and the return of Jason Taumalolo from suspension and Lachlan Coote from injury will help them improve their defence.
The Rabbitohs on the other hand will be looking to bounce back on a poor offensive game against the Roosters last week, where they scored only one try and described their own attack as "clunky".
Why the Cowboys can win: The loss to Manly at home in Round 3 will still be burning for the Cowboys, and they'll be wanting to put their recent positive home game record back on track. The return of Taumalolo and Coote will also give the homes side a huge boost. While it's possible that Taumalolo may need to recover some match fitness, it seems unlikely that he'll make less than 200 metres given his recent form. Lachlan Coote's return will provide experience and consistency at the back in defence, and an additional ball-playing option in attack. With Coote, Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston all working off the back of the metres gained by the likes of Taumalolo, Coen Hess and Scott Bolton the only thing that will stop the Cowboys from winning will be poor defensive efforts.
Why the Rabbitohs can win: The Rabbitohs certainly don't lack the team, the skill or the experience to win, with players like Adam Reynolds, Robbie Farah and two of the Burgess brothers they have attacking power all over the field. They'll need to return to the form that saw them beat the Knights and Manly, and the motivation to go three from five will be a huge factor in their effort this week. They'll also have a longer and more regular preparation than the Cowboys this week, having played on Thursday, as opposed to the Cowboys' Saturday night game. The Cowboys will be unable to train until at least Wednesday, and potentially Thursday due to Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossing the coast on Tuesday afternoon.
 Telstra Premiership: Jason Taumalolo vs Sam Burgess
All Run Metres, Tackles, Offloads, Tackle Breaks.
The history: Played 30; Cowboys 15; Rabbitohs 14; Drawn 1. It's almost an even split between the Cowboys and the Rabbitohs, although in recent times the Cowboys have had the upper hand, having won three games of their last four encounters.
What are the odds: Sportsbet reports one-way traffic for North Queensland in this one. 75 per cent of the money bet on the game is with the Cowboys. Try-scoring machine Coen Hess is actually the most popular in the first try scorer market at a big price. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Jon Stone. Sideline officials: Michael Wise and Nick Morel.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.00pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 7.00PM.
How we see it: It seems unlikely that Cyclone Debbie will have put too much of a dent in Paul Green's training plans, and the return of Taumalolo and Coote may prove too much for the Rabbitohs to handle after a big game last week. And with players like Hess, Bolton and Ethan Lowe improving every game the Cowboys will be hard to beat in Townsville. North Queensland's desire to return to winning form at home will also be fuelling their fire. Cowboys to win by 12.