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Cowboys v Dragons: Jake Clifford to debut; Frizell, Nene out

A massive danger game for the Dragons after their ordinary performance in last week's shock home loss to the Wests Tigers.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly why the Dragons aren't humming along as smoothly as they were in the first half of the season but last week showed they might be having a few late-season wobbles.

Maybe they peaked too early, maybe it's the rigours of the Origin period or maybe the competition has simply caught up. Whatever it is, the Dragons need to re-focus and re-energise or will soon find themselves out of the top four.

The Cowboys were right in the game last week against Canberra but it became obvious one team had more to play for over the final 20 minutes and the Raiders ran away with it.

If they can put it together for 80 minutes this is a very winnable game for the Cows.

Key match-up: If the Dragons boast the best back-row in the NRL, the Cowboys don't rank far behind - at least on paper. The Cows haven't got the wins this season but back-rowers Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess should be relishing their clash with NSW Origin stars Tariq Sims and Jack de Belin. 

Cowboys v Dragons - Round 19

For the Cowboys to win: Johnathan Thurston is a student of the game and will let his teammates know the Dragons aren't playing like a top-four team and might be starting to second-guess themselves. The Cows must have one killer 80-minute performance in them this season. This could be the week.

For the Dragons to win: They're not playing badly but they're not playing well, and that's not going to cut it at this end of the season. They know they have all the tools and a formula for success, but the Dragons need to rediscover the ruthlessness that had many pundits thinking they were a lock for the minor premiership.

Cowboys Stat Attack: North Queensland have had the wood over St George Illawarra in recent times, with the Dragons winless in Townsville since 2005 and Kane Linnett scoring six tries in his past seven games against the Red V.

Dragons Stat Attack: One of the keys to St George Illawarra's success in 2018 has been a simple one – they've simply had the ball more than any other team. The Dragons lead the league in possession percentage but an ordinary 66% completion rate against the Tigers cost them dearly last week. Hold onto the ball and they should be good enough to get the win.       

And another thing: Offensive execution will be a major focus for both teams after poor handling and carelessness contributed largely to their respective losses last week. The Cowboys completed 25/35 against the Raiders, while the Dragons were worse with just 23/35 (66 per cent). That was a big drop on the previous week's 28/31 (90 per cent) against Melbourne.

Team Lists


  • Fullback for Cowboys is number 18 Jake Clifford
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Jason Nightingale
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Enari Tuala
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Kane Linnett
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Tim Lafai
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Justin O'Neill
    Winger for Dragons is number 21 Jordan Pereira
  • Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Te Maire Martin
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Gareth Widdop
  • Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Johnathan Thurston
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt


  • Prop for Cowboys is number 8 John Asiata
    Prop for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
  • Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Jake Granville
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
  • Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Scott Bolton
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Gavin Cooper
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 17 Luciano Leilua
  • Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Jack De Belin


  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Ben Hampton
    Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Shaun Fensom
    Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Kurt Mann
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Corey Jensen
    Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Leeson Ah Mau
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 20 Mitchell Dunn
    Interchange for Dragons is number 19 Blake Lawrie

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
  • Touch Judge: Alan Shortall
  • Senior Review Official: Ashley Klein

Last updated:

Cowboys: Coach Paul Green has handed 20-year-old Jake Clifford a debut at fullback at the expense of Lachlan Coote. In another late change Mitchell Dunn comes onto the interchange and Francis Molo drops off the bench. Justin O'Neill replaces Antonio Winterstein on the wing, while Coen Hess starts for Shane Wright.

Dragons: Nene Macdonald (foot injury) has been replaced on the wing by Kiwi-born Jordan Pereira, who makes his NRL debut. Tyson Frizell (back) is also out, with Luciano Leilua called into the starting side and Blake Lawrie promoted from the reserves to the bench.

Head-to-head: Played 29; Cowboys 15 wins, Dragons 14 wins
Previous result: Dragons won 28-22 at WIN Stadium in round 7, 2017
Points per game: Cowboys 16.2; Dragons 24.5
Points conceded per game: Cowboys 21.4; Dragons 18
Televised: Live on Fox League

Petero Civoniceva's prediction: The Cowboys had a shocker in Canberra last week. It was a very un-Cowboy-like performance and with nothing left to play for it's hard to see them taking down the Dragons. The Red V have too much at stake as they look to cement a spot in the top four and they will have too many attacking weapons.

Tip: Dragons by 10

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