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For & Against: Can the Cowboys make the finals?

What a difference a fortnight makes in footy.

After breaking their drought at Leichhardt Oval in round five, Todd Payten's Cowboys backed that up with a win over the Buldogs and a come from behind upset of the Canberra Raiders, all without their main man Jason Taumalolo. 

On top of their improved form on the paddock the Cowboys have also snared Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden for 2022.

All looks rosy in Townsville right now but do they have what it takes to keep the roll going and make it to the top eight?

The Cowboys can make the finals

For – Martin Lenehan ( senior journalist)

Momentum is a powerful force in rugby league and right now the Cowboys have it in bucket loads.

Riding the back of a three-game winning streak, they are expected to welcome back enforcer Jason Taumalolo for a trip to Gosford on Sunday to face the injury-hit Warriors.

The following week they face the battling Broncos, and while the rivalry may have lost some of its lustre in recent years, Queensland Country Bank Stadium will be rocking as Todd Payten's men look to inflict more pain on the team that had the wood on them for so many years.

Then it's a Magic Round showdown with the Roosters in Brisbane before two home games against the Knights and Warriors before a bye in round 13 and then it's the Sea Eagles, Sharks and Knights again.

With Val Holmes in dynamic form at fullback and Scott Drinkwater looking more composed every week in the No.6, the Cowboys loom as a dangerous opponent for anyone who dares to take them lightly as Canberra appeared to do last week.

Drinkwater places a kick for Condon

From 24-6 up, the Raiders clocked off and the Cowboys pounced, pulling a try back just before half-time when Drinkwater grubbered expertly for impressive back-rower Ben Condon to score.

Tries to Reece Robson and Justin O'Neill followed after the break and even more impressively the Cowboys' defence dug deep to keep the Raiders scoreless in the second 40.

Having conceded 33 points per game in the opening six rounds it was important the Cowboys showed some resolve - and to do it against one of the competition heavyweights was even more impressive.

The Cowboys now sit equal on six competition points with the Titans, Raiders, Warriors, Knights and Sea Eagles and have a golden opportunity to climb a few rungs on the ladder with a favourable draw in the next six weeks.

Payten's message is clearly resonating with his troops and they look like a happy and cohesive unit as they put a shaky opening month well and truly behind them and set sail for September.

Match Highlights: Cowboys v Raiders

Against – Paul Zalunardo ( senior journalist)

Three wins in a row is nice but being ahead of half of the sides in the NRL come round 25 still looks a bridge too far for the Cowboys. 

Their draw looks favourable, but what’s to say the recent upswing in performance will continue. 

After some dark days over the opening month, wins over Wests Tigers and Canterbury sparked North Queensland to life. 

Wests Tigers were so miffed by their performance that public apologies followed while the Bulldogs were winless at that stage. 

Credit where it’s due for the win over the Raiders on Saturday night, but a naysayer could suggest the Green Machine are at as low a point as they’ve been at for a couple of seasons. 

The next five rounds will have a big say as to whether or not the Cowboys are playing beyond round 25. 

Get Caught Up: Anzac Round must-see moments

Two matches against the Warriors bookend games against the Cowboys, Roosters and Knights. 

How fitting that the team coach Todd Payten left in order to join the Cowboys has a great chance to put a serious dent in their finals hopes while also helping their own. 

 As well as the Warriors, the Cowboys have two matches against Newcastle coming in quick succession (rounds 11 and 16). Lose those two and it will be very difficult to finish ahead of Adam O’Brien’s group. 

The return of Jason Taumalolo is sure to help the 2015 premiers, but let’s consider some of the teams they need to finish ahead of. 

It seems safe to suggest Penrith, Melbourne, South Sydney, Parramatta and the Roosters are locks for post-season action. That leaves three spots. 

Fans of the Bulldogs, Broncos and Wests Tigers might still be hopeful but the chances of any of those 1-6 sides going on a lengthy winning streak appears slim. 

That leaves eight teams fighting for three spots. 

Every try from Round 7

Canberra look to have too much talent on their books to stay down for long and the Titans have a group of forwards capable of beating anyone into submission. 

The Dragons, Knights and Warriors have arguably more talent across their 30-man squads and are either ahead of, or on level terms with the Telstra Premiership’s northern-most team. 

With Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden locked in for 2022, talk of a Cowboys finals push this year may be 12 months too early. 

But after the way the team started, that such a conversation is even being had is a positive side for the team from Townsville. 

Will the Cowboys make the top 8?

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.


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