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North Queensland Cowboys Vs Melbourne Storm at 1300Smiles Stadium, Saturday 7.30pm
Title contenders meet in match of the round.
Saturday nights clash serves up what promises to be an absorbing clash when two of the heavy weights of the competition do battle in far North Queensland.
The Cowboys will see this match as a perfect opportunity for them to stamp their claim on the 2016 NRL Premiership and be the first side to win back to back premierships in the salary cap era.
Last week’s thumping of Canterbury was particularly impressive considering that for half of the game they did without playmaker Jonathan Thurston. Their attacking raids on the edges are causing teams all sorts of dramas.
They will be tested in this match however as the Storm have once again set the benchmark in the NRL and will be focused solely on again getting a job done this week. Their young forward pack has laid the platform all year and will again be expected to lead the way on Saturday night. With Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith again leading the way for this impressive side, the sky is the limit for Melbourne as they march towards September.
Both sides have been fantastic this year and this game will be a cracker. Sides stacked with quality all over the park is sure to provide some classic moments in this match. Strap yourselves in folks.
Last Meeting: Melbourne Storm 15 defeated North Queensland 14 at Suncorp Stadium, Round 10, 2016.
The Cowboys won a thriller by 1 point in this season’s earlier clash, it was an absorbing game right up until the finish, don’t expect this game to go any differently.
Let’s not forget that North Queensland knocked the Storm out of the finals in Melbourne last season in a lop sided preliminary final. This game has all the makings of a dog fight!
Who to watch: In the absence of Thurston, Ray Thompson needs to stand up and be counted. His kicking game will need to be on point from the get go and is an important weapon in pinning the Storm inside their own half. If he and the other Cowboys kickers are offline, Munster, Vunivalu and Koroibete will punish them and make easy metres off kick returns.
Look for Thompson to take on the line particularly in the last 15 minutes of each half aiming up at tired defenders.
With plenty of clubs sniffing around Thompson for 2017, he’d love a great performance.
The Storm will again be relying on Mr Dependable Cooper Cronk to guide them home once again. Despite being 32, Cronk is showing no signs of slowing down and has churned out 10 tries and 16 try assists. Along with Cam Smith, he has been the focal point for the Storm high flying in 2nd place. His consistent kicking game along with his organisational skills with the attack has him as one of the best halves in the game. He will be involved in everything come Saturday night.
The Favourite: The Storm are slight favourites in this game despite being away from home.
My Tip: this game is so difficult to pick. The Cowboys are at home but with no JT they are at a massive disadvantage. The Storm on the flip side are playing some really good, smart and concise football. Still though, this game could go either way. On the back of some very nice performances by their forward pack and with JT out, I’m leaning towards a Storm win in a tight, hotly contested affair.
Storm by 6.
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