The final round of the NRL season will feature two Queensland teams who will essentially battle it out to salvage pride, having seen their finals chances evaporate several weeks ago. In fact, with the Titans placed one win above the Cowboys, but with an inferior points differential to their far northern neighbours, both teams will be eager to win this match, in order to avoid being classed as the worst team of the sunshine state for 2018.
The Titans were very gallant in their 10-8 loss to the table-topping Storm at home. The opening half saw the men from the holiday strip look very sharp against the Storm, making the defending premiers look rather lethargic, as they led 8-0 at the break. Unfortunately, their inability to make the most of their chances came back to haunt them, as the Storm awoke from the slumber to remind everyone why they are the premiers. Two tries in under 15 minutes saw the reigning champions snatch the lead, and they were eventually able to outlast the brave Titans.
The Cowboys were nothing short of sensational, as they destroyed a very disappointing Eels side 44-6. Their commanding victory was built on the back of a blistering opening half, where they blew the Eels off the park, to lead 32-0. They had scored another couple of converted tries, as they threatened to break the half-century mark, and perhaps rack up a cricket score. Nevertheless, the Cows scored their largest victory this season. The win was significant for 2 main reasons: Firstly, the men from the tropics ensured they would not have the wooden spoon. Secondly, they were able to give the great Johnathan Thurston a sensational farewell, in what was his final appearance in front of the adoring Townsville faithful.
Given that the Titans have an inferior points differential to the Cowboys, despite being placed ahead of them on the ladder, a loss to their northern neighbours will see them leapfrogged by them. That would mean being consigned to be ranked as the worst side in Queensland yet again. The Cowboys will definitely want to avoid being classed as the worst team in Queensland for the season, given much was expected from them at the beginning of the year. It’s a position they have avoided since 2010, and they will be eager for it to stay that way. Moreover, there will be a significant amount of sentimentality about this match, given that the great Johnathan Thurston will run out for his final ever game. With the Titans having their own agenda, it means they will look to rain on the farewell of JT. Conversely, the Cowboys will simply want to send their legendary skipper out on a high note.
2018 - Round 7 - North Queensland Cowboys 26 def. Gold Coast Titans 14 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
2017 - Round 13 - North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. Gold Coast Titans 8 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
2017 - Round 4 - North Queensland Cowboys 32 def. Gold Coast Titans 26 at Cbus Super Stadium.
2016 - Round 26 - North Queensland Cowboys 32 def. Gold Coast Titans 16 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
2015 - Round 26 - North Queensland Cowboys 42 def. Gold Coast Titans 12 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
As can be seen, the Cowboys have won all 5 recent encounters against the Titans, with 4 of those matches being at home in Townsville. In fact, the Cows have walked away with the competition points in all their matches against the Titans since 2014. The Cowboys also won their last match against the Titans on the Gold Coast, which occurred early last season. As for their overall encounters, 12 wins have gone the way of the men from the tropics, while the men from the holiday strip have 8 wins to their name. This means that the Titans are 1 of only 2 current teams that the Cowboys have dominated. Conversely, for the Titans, the Cowboys are yet another team that they have a negative head-to-head record against.
However, as well as being placed higher than the Cowboys, there is another thing that the Titans will gain some confidence from. Despite going down to the Cowboys in their most recent encounter on the Gold Coast, the Titans lead the Cowboys in the overall matches played on the Gold Coast, having won 5 of 9 encounters, including 8 matches at their current home ground.
|Gold Coast Titans||North Queensland Cowboys|
|1||AJ Brimson||Ben Hampton|
|2||Anthony Don||Kyle Feldt|
|3||Konrad Hurrell||Justin O'Neill|
|4||Brenko Lee||Kane Linnett|
|5||Phillip Sami||Gideon Gela-Mosby|
|6||Kane Elgey||Te Maire Martin|
|7||Ash Taylor||Johnathan Thurston|
|8||Jarrod Wallace||Matt Scott|
|9||Nathan Peats||Jake Granville|
|10||Ryan James||Jordan McLean|
|11||Kevin Proctor||Gavin Cooper|
|12||Keegan Hipgrave||Coen Hess|
|13||Jai Arrow||Jason Taumalolo|
|14||Mitch Rein||Ethan Lowe|
|15||Moeaki Fotuiaka||John Asiata|
|16||Jack Stockwell||Shaun Fensom|
|17||Will Matthews||Scott Bolton|
|18||Bryce Cartwright||Francis Molo|
|19||Jai Whitbread||Jake Clifford|
|20||Leilani Latu||Javid Bowen|
|21||Brendan Elliot||Shane Wright|
The facts that matter
As stated earlier, the Titans were very impressive in their defeat to the Storm. The men from the holiday strip absolutely dominated possession in the first half, and were rewarded with a try to youngster Alex Brimson. They were somewhat unfortunate not to have had a couple more tries to their name, as the 1st instance saw the referees rule out any potential obstruction by Billy Slater, while the 2nd instance saw them denied by a try-saving tackle by Josh Addo-Carr. The 2nd half saw them commit some errors, which allowed the reigning premiers in to the match. They capitalised by scoring 2 tries within 15 minutes, to take the lead, which they would cling onto for the remainder of the match.
Despite the defeat, skipper Ryan James continues to lead from the front, and it was no different against the Storm. He may not have made the most metres in the match, but his 149 metres saw him make the most metres of any starting forward. This meant he dominated the likes of Jesse Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Tim Glasby, all of whom are representative forwards. This week, James will be up against the likes of Matt Scott and Jordan McLean, both of whom have been in ominous form of late. The Titans may have restricted the Storm to 10 points last week, but they will need to replicate that effort this week. Defence has been a weakness all season for them (552 points conceded-ranked 14th), and they will be up against a side who are fresh from piling on the points in their recent game, and are looking to run amok in this match.
The home form of the Titans this season is not so great, having won 4 matches and lost 7. Those 4 wins came against the Raiders, Sea Eagles, Knights and Warriors. Given the Sea Eagles win at home was actually in Gladstone, the Titans have actually only won 3 matches on the holiday strip. They have an opportunity here to snare a final win at home, in another season without finals action. There is likely to be a massive crowd in attendance, and this is their chance to give them something to cheer about.
Last week, the Cowboys were absolutely sensational, as they obliterated the Eels, consigning them to last place for 2018. In addition, they jumped 2 spots, to find themselves ahead of the Sea Eagles and Eels, while drastically improving their points differential. The Cows had scored better than a point per minute in a blistering opening half, to eventually lead 32-0 at the interval. They would extend their lead to 44-0, as winger Kyle Feldt scored a hat trick of tries. It seemed they would even surpass 50 points, but they would give the Eels their only try for the match. Regardless, this victory was undoubtedly their most emphatic, which left most wondering where this effort has been all season. Either way, it was a fantastic way to send JT out a winner in his final match at home.
Despite the fact that they are well out of finals contention, the Cowboys have sounded an ominous warning for this match, in both the point scoring and meter departments. The terrifying ease in which they found holes in the opposition defence was a reminder of the danger that the Cows pose for anyone, as well as a throwback to their recent glorious years. They made a complete mockery of their inability to score points this season. In addition, they made almost 2000 metres in their demolition of the Eels, as all their starting forwards (as well as interchange forward Scott Bolton) exceeded 100 metres. Unsurprisingly, the Cows’ engine room was led by rampaging forwards, Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean and Matt Scott. As such, the Titans’ engine room will have their work cut out for them, especially given they have found some late season form. Moreover, despite having made the 3rd most errors (behind the Roosters and Titans) the Cowboys have actually improved substantially in this respect, having not made many errors in their recent 4 matches.
The form of the Cowboys on the road is rather horrific, having won only 2 matches away from home, whilst dropping 9 matches. Their last away win came against the Sea Eagles, which was back in round 13. Their only other away win came against the Panthers, in round 9. Despite this, they have dominated the Titans in their overall meetings with them, and left with the competition points in their last visit to the holiday strip. This will definitely give them some confidence, as they look to claim successive victories for the first time this season, while sending JT out a winner in his final ever appearance. There is highly likely to be a decent attendance for this match, and the reason is most likely due to this being the final time they will see the great man run out for a competitive match.
Regardless of the fact that neither team will see any finals action, this match is still one to get excited about. Both teams are placed very close to each other on the ladder, and the final standings can easily change, pending the final outcome. As alluded to earlier, the the Titans are placed directly above the Cowboys, courtesy of winning one additional match. However, their points differential is vastly inferior to that of the Cowboys, meaning they need to win this match. If the Cowboys triumph in this match, they will leapfrog the Titans.
Moreover, Queensland pride is at stake here, as the loser of this match will be regarded as the worst team in the sunshine state for 2018. The Titans know that feeling all too well, having been in that position in 8 of their 11 seasons in the NRL. This means they will look to offload that unwanted title, at least for this season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys will at least look to avoid gaining that unwanted title, especially given that this season promised a substantial amount for them. Furthermore, that will give them even greater motivation to prevent the Titans from spoiling the farewell of the great Johnathan Thurston.
On the subject of JT, this match will have an abundance of sentimentality about it. This will be his last ever appearance as an NRL player, which means that there is sure to be a decent crowd in attendance. Even though the Titans will look to spoil his farewell, they will definitely pay him the respect he deserves before and after the match. There is minimal doubt that those in attendance will be filled with emotion in his farewell appearance. He is one of the greatest players from their state, after all. Therefore, it seems quite fitting that the great man’s final appearance should be in his home state of Queensland.
The Titans will undoubtedly be looking to end their season on a high, and relegate the Cowboys to being Queensland’s worst team for 2018. After all, that is how it’s been for most of the season. It will be of no surprise if they rip into the Cowboys, especially given their recent form has been pretty good. However, the Cowboys’ form has been better, as they have piled on the points, while giving numerous top 4 teams an absolute fright. Moreover, they will be highly motivated by the desire to send JT out a winner. Therefore the Cows’ recent form, as well as the inevitable emotion surrounding this match should see them home in this match, meaning they will leapfrog the Titans on the ladder, while sending The legendary JT out a winner. Cowboys by 4.
Who will come out on top in the last game of 2018 for the Cowboys and Titans? Let us know in the comments and poll below.