Cowboys v Bulldogs: Coote back; Pay sticks solid
If it wasn't for Canberra's and Parramatta's futile efforts throughout the opening rounds we would've been calling the Cowboys the most disappointing team over the first month of the season.
Widely tipped to win it all in 2018, the 'Cows' could've easily started 0-4 if the emotion of Johnathan Thurston's 300th NRL game hadn't carried them to a narrow home win over the Sharks in round one.
The Bulldogs were never really out of the game last week against Canberra, but they were also never really in it in terms of matching the Raiders' sense of urgency. They are at long odds to win in North Queensland, but the Cowboys aren't exactly brimming with confidence and everybody knows canines have a sixth sense for detecting fear and rattled nerves.
The key match-up: Johnathan Thurston v Kieran Foran. Both sides struggled to score points last week and these players are the key to their respective sides' attacking structures, so whichever one fires will go a long way to securing the win.
For the Cowboys to win: Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan and the rest of the Cowboys backline needs to click in attack, while the entire team needs to be consistent in defence for 80 minutes.
For the Bulldogs to win: They need to complete above 80 per cent to give themselves a chance to score points.
Cowboys Stat Attack: As reported by NRL.com this week the Cowboys have found themselves outside the Telstra Premiership top eight after five rounds three times in the past five seasons – and in every season they fought back to play finals football. That includes their premiership-winning 2015 campaign.
Bulldogs Stat Attack: Last week they had 56 per cent of the ball, but only completed at 73 per cent and scored two tries, so if they hold the ball more consistently they'll likely notch up a few more four-pointers.
And another thing: Neither of these sides have been at their best, expect a scrappy game of football where discipline and ball control are all-important.
Prediction: Cowboys by 2.
Match: Cowboys vs Bulldogs
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 5.30pm Saturday at 1300SMILES Stadium
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O'Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 John Asiata, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe
The Cowboys are 1-17, with premiership-winning fullback Lachlan Coote making his first appearance for 2018.
Bulldogs: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jeremy Marshall-King, 7 Kieran Foran, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott
Interchange: 14 Asipeli Fine, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Greg Eastwood, 17 Kerrod Holland
The Bulldogs have named an unchanged 17 after captain Josh Jackson had his high tackle charge down-graded.
Head-to-head: Played 36; Bulldogs 21 wins, Cowboys 15 wins
Matches at venue: Played 17; Bulldogs 12 wins, Cowboys 5 wins
2017 result: Cowboys won 30-14 at ANZ Stadium in round 10
Points per game: Cowboys 16 (11th); Bulldogs 15.2 (12th)
Points conceded per game: Cowboys 24.6 (12th); Bulldogs 26 (14th)
Televised: Live on Fox League