Raiders v Cowboys: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys  
GIO Stadium
Saturday, 7.30pm 

A Canberra Raiders side desperate for a win will host the North Queensland Cowboys, eager to prove their last-minute win against the Penrith Panthers without Johnathan Thurston was no fluke. 

The Raiders have under-performed through the State of Origin period, given they only have one representative player in Josh Papalii they've squandered their opportunity to push up the ladder while teams were weakened due to Origin, only beating the Sydney Roosters since the period began. 

The Cowboys have changed their mid-year fortunes in 2017, North Queensland usually struggles in the middle of the year, but has lifted this season to beat the Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels, while narrowly going down to the Melbourne Storm. 

Why the Raiders can win: Desperation and a good pre-game talk from coach Ricky Stuart will have the Raiders fired up and eager to turn their season around. If Canberra can roll up the field they should be more than capable of scoring points, with their back-line proving dangerous against the Broncos last week. Each player from jerseys one to four scored a try, and Jordan Rapana leads the competition in tries with 14 for the year. The real area of improvement for the Raiders is their defence, as they leaked five tries to the Broncos in Round 16, a number that puts victory virtually outside the realm of possibility. 

Why the Cowboys can win: Michael Morgan proved that he has the killer instinct against New South Wales in State of Origin II and again against the Panthers in Round 16, only three days after his flick pass to Dane Gagai levelled the scores in Game Two. Morgan's cool head won the Cowboys the game, but all the control in the world won't make up for an inability to score points. The Cowboys have no problem working their way up the field, with Taumalolo and Hess running for more than 200 metres against the Panthers, despite the latter coming off the bench. Their field position against the Panthers showed they had the forward pack, but their two tries for the game showed they lacked some execution without Thurston there. Coach Paul Green has undoubtedly been working on their attacking combinations, and the inclusion of Te Maire Martin at five-eighth may be the spark the Cowboys need to convert possession into points.   

 


The history: Raiders v Cowboys: Played 38; Raiders 21 wins; Cowboys 17 wins. The teams last met in Round 1 2017 in Townsville, where the Cowboys took a golden-point thriller. The Cowboys have only won once from four starts at GIO Stadium, in Round 15 of 2015. 

What are the odds: Sportsbet punters are keen on the Cowboys with the points start, and the money is 50/50 when it comes to the head to head market. That said, Canberra 1-12 is the overwhelming favourite as far as winning margin is concerned. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant referee: Peter Gough. Touch Judges: Jason Walsh and Brett Suttor. Review officials: Bryan Norrie and Ashley Klein.  

Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm.

How we see it: If the Raiders are to beat the Cowboys and turn their season around, they cannot afford to leak 30 points, but if they can tighten up their defence, they Cowboys' new halves pairing could struggle to put players over the line. The cold conditions will likely favour the Raiders in that regard, but even so it will be a close game. Raiders by 4.