Wests Tigers, 7th (5-4) Vs North Queensland Cowboys, 12th (3-6)
10 May 2018, 7:50pm (AEST)
What a crazy start to 2018 for both these teams. The Wests Tigers (WT) blowing most critics away with an exceptional start to the year, while the North Queensland Cowboys (NQC) have looked a shadow of their grand final team of 2017.
With the WT on a downward spiral and the NQC starting to find form this match is shaping up as a defining match for both teams.
The WT are coming off a 5 day turn around after a comprehensive loss at the hands of a revitalised Warriors team. This is their third straight loss after losing to the Eels and Knights by 2 points, but before this, it was round 3 where a controversial decision gave them their first loss to Brisbane by 2 points. Not known for their attacking, making 24 more points or more twice this season with an average of 2.6 tries, they rather stifle teams and have only concede 20 or more points 4 times this year and kept the Melbourne Storm to 8 and 10 points winning both games this year.
The NQC tale of the tape isn’t pretty reading but is slowing building having won 2 out of their last 3. Beating an inform Penrith by 6, a 10 point loss to the Raiders (1st time a raiders team has won in NQC since 2007) who out muscled their forwards in the middle and a Gutsy 12 point win over the Gold Coast Titans. Their average tries is 2.8 with only clearing 24 points twice and conceding 24 or more points 4 times this year.
The last five meetings have gone the way of the WT, winning 3, NQC 2. The Highest winning margin by the WT is 12 points, when the NQC won both their games by a margin of 8 points. Their last meeting at Leichhardt Oval was won by WT in 2016 round 22, 26-14. However both teams are vastly different since this match and this year is one of the hardest to predict in many seasons of the NRL.
Stats that matter:
WT and NQC both average the same completed sets of 30, making errors a key area alongside the penalties conceded. WT on average have 2 less errors (9) than NQC, but concede one penalty more (9), where an interesting stat we found was the average offloads. WT average 13 compared to NQC 6.
This highlights the form of the NQC and their “getting back to basics” aspect over the WST who look to take chances and strive for second phase play to dismantle defences.
For us, this aspect will be a large determination in the outcome of the game. NQC aren’t scrambling to well and rely on their structures to hold out their oppositions, if WT can maintain this average it will go a long way to possibly win against the NQC.
On the flip side, the NQC are starting to find their flow scoring 26 points in their last two winning matches mainly off the backs of the forwards doing their jobs well. With the increase in meters gained this is allowing J. Thurston (JT) and M. Morgan (MM) more chances at scoring points. JT is 2nd overall in try assists (10), MM is equal 9th (6) tied with L. Brooks. This translates to the overall points with JT sitting on 54, 10th, compared to E. Masters 40, 17th.
WT – R. Packer is named to play at prop returning from injury, move S.Sue to the bench as 17. P. Godinet falls out of favour with J. Liddle coming back onto the bench also. Interestingly C. Lawrence is named at 11, even with a HIA protocol to follow.
Team analysis, C. Lawrence wasn’t expected to return until next round, highlighting the importance of this game. However Coach Cleary has resisted rushing back star off season recruit, J. Reynolds as with his team is looking at some forward punch vs this improving Cowboys pack.
NQC – No changes as you would expect, with S. Bolton being allowed to play by the NRL even with an indecent assault allegation.
Team Analysis, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. No early returns for the NQC and no new injuries as the NQC are starting to turn the corner and a crazy thought is they are only two wins away from the Top 8.
Possible Ladder position:
WT – could possibly fall out of the top 8 if games don’t go there way or maintain the log jam that is positions 4th to 10th on 10 points.
NQC – Could leap frog the Raiders to 11th this week with a win and Raiders defeat. Or fall behind the Gold Coast Titans if they defeat the storm.
We are expecting a WT team to come out of the blocks hard after their disappointment of last week. For us this plays into the NQC game plan and will allow them to roll over the top of the WT in the latter parts of the first half and second half.
A glorious 14*c – 24*c day, mostly sunny with 30% chance of rain, <1mm
Don’t get greedy with this game, CrownBet are offering $1.92 for NQC line of -1.5. We have the NQC winning by 4+ points. The final winning margin will be defined by the WT fatigue factory, could remain close with a try difference or a blow out for the NQC.
COWBOYS -1.5 @ 1.92 (Crownbet)