Saturday’s matches for round 21 wraps up with the in-form Roosters tackling the Cowboys at Moore Park. Both teams are coming off last-start victories and will be keen to consolidate on their respective wins. An intriguing factor in this match is the mouthwatering matchup between the Roosters’ halfback Cooper Cronk against Cowboys co-captain and playmaker, Johnathan Thurston, as the two Queensland greats line up against one another for the final time.
The Roosters sounded an ominous warning to the competition by clinically disposing of fellow top 4 side, the Dragons, to the tune of 36-18. Not only did the tricolours exact revenge for their Anzac Day loss to the Dragons, but they leapfrogged their rivals into 3rd place. That win was the Roosters’ 9th win in 11 matches since their Anzac Day reality check. They will be eager to continue their winning streak, as they seek a fourth consecutive win, which they will need to do without the services of injured five-eighth Luke Keary.
The Cowboys arrested both a 5 match losing streak, and a 5 match losing streak at home, with a dramatic 20-18 victory over the Knights in Townsville. This win by the Cows saw them achieve a raft of firsts for this season, such as winning despite trailing at halftime, as well as holding their opponents scoreless in any half in 2018. They have an opportunity to claim a consecutive victory here for the first time this year, and will be bolstered by the return of co-captain and stalwart front-rower Matt Scott into the starting lineup.
As well as looking to consolidate on their spot in the top 4, the Roosters will be motivated by their disappointing loss to the Cowboys in last year’s preliminary final, meaning they will be out to avenge that loss. With the abundance of disappointments that the men from the tropics have endured this season, the Chooks will more than fancy their chances of rubbing salt into the Cowboys’ wounds. For the Cowboys, they will be buoyed by their win last week, and their most recent match against the Roosters in last year’s finals.
2017 - Preliminary Finals - North Queensland Cowboys 29 def. Sydney Roosters 16 at Allianz Stadium.
2017 - Round 21 - Sydney Roosters 22 def. North Queensland Cowboys 16 at Allianz Stadium.
2016 - Round 23 - Sydney Roosters 22 def. North Queensland Cowboys 10 at Allianz Stadium.
2016 - Round 3 - North Queensland Cowboys 40 def. Sydney Roosters 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
2015 - Round 1 - Sydney Roosters 28 def. North Queensland Cowboys 4 at 1300SMILES Stadium.
As can be seen, the Roosters have had the better of the Cowboys in their 5 most recent matches, winning 3 of them. In fact, the tricolours have had the ascendancy over the Cows in their overall encounters, winning 25 matches, while the Cowboys have triumphed on 11 occasions. Moreover, the Cowboys’ record against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium is nothing short of atrocious, having returned to North Queensland victorious on only 4 occasions. In fact, of the 25 matches that the men from the tropics have played at Allianz Stadium, only 8 of those have ended in triumph.
However, the Cows’ most recent visit to Moore Park was their most significant match against the Roosters. The North Queenslanders defied both their poor overall record at the venue, injuries to their co-captains and their poor overall record against the Chooks (particularly in finals), to score an emphatic 29-16 victory over the Roosters in the preliminary final, to advance to the grand final at the Bondi club’s expense.
Also, Cowboys coach Paul Green will be up against the team that he not only served as a player for, but served as an assistant coach and lower grades coach for. He was among the coaching staff, working under current Roosters coach Trent Robinson in their 2013 premiership victory, prior to becoming Cowboys head coach. Green still has a very amicable relationship with Robinson, however, that will almost certainly be set aside for this match.
|Sydney Roosters||North Queensland Cowboys|
|1||James Tedesco||Te Maire Martin|
|2||Daniel Tupou||Kyle Feldt|
|3||Latrell Mitchell||Enari Tuala|
|4||Joseph Manu||Kane Linnett|
|5||Blake Ferguson||Justin O'Neill|
|6||Ryan Matterson||Jake Clifford|
|7||Cooper Cronk||Johnathan Thurston|
|8||Jared Waerea-Hargreaves||Matt Scott|
|9||Jake Friend||Jake Granville|
|10||Sio Siua Taukeiaho||Jordan McLean|
|11||Boyd Cordner||Gavin Cooper|
|12||Isaac Liu||Coen Hess|
|13||Victor Radley||Jason Taumalolo|
|14||Dylan Napa||Ben Hampton|
|15||Zane Tetevano||Shaun Fensom|
|16||Mitchell Aubusson||John Asiata|
|17||Kurt Baptiste||Scott Bolton|
|18||Nat Butcher||Corey Jensen|
|19||Mitchell Cornish||Lachlan Coote|
|20||Sean O'Sullivan||Javid Bowen|
|21||Lindsay Collins||Francis Molo|
The facts that matter
In their emphatic victory over the Dragons, the Roosters sounded a warning to their rivals that they mean business with the finals rapidly approaching. They were on track to rack up a cricket score after running in 2 tries in the opening 10 minutes. Apart from a few momentary lapses in concentration, to allow the Dragons in for a few tries, the Roosters were able to comfortably repel their opponents, en route to a commanding win. The result saw them leapfrog the Dragons into 3rd place, courtesy of a superior points differential.
Looking at some of the key statistics of the Roosters, it is of minimal surprise to see them in the position that they are in. After a stuttering start to their season, particularly in attack, the tricolours now find themselves ranked 5th in the competition for points scored, as well as 4th for tries scored. More significantly, the Chooks have the most miserly defence in the competition, having conceded an impressive 281 points thus far. Hooker Jake Friend has been key to this, leading the competition with 821 tackles. However, ball handling still remains an issue for the Roosters, as they lead the competition in errors and handling errors.
The home form of the Roosters is nothing short of fantastic, having won 7 matches and lost only 3 matches. At Allianz, the tricolours have won 6 matches, and have lost 2 for the season. Those losses came against the Warriors and fierce rivals, the Rabbitohs, both of which came early in the season. In fact, since their Anzac Day reality check by the Dragons, the Roosters have won all their matches at Allianz, with their only other home loss coming against a very solid Storm outfit in Adelaide.
The Cowboys would have felt immense relief, having snapped a 5 match losing streak at home, as well as a 5 match losing streak in general. The first half appeared to be a case of how much they would be defeated by. However, they demonstrated the character that has been missing throughout the season, to come from behind and steal the win. That was the first time the Cows had ever come from behind at halftime to win, as well as holding their opponents scoreless in any half this season. This meant they moved a game clear of the last placed Eels. Moreover, it was a great way to mark the farewell of consistent winger Antonio Winterstein, who announced his retirement prior to the match.
Despite their win, there are key statistics which highlight some of the issues that continue to plague the Cowboys this season. Their completion rate was still very ordinary, completing only 67% of their sets, as well as making more errors than their opponents. They have made the second most errors this season, as well as the fourth most handling errors of any team. Despite having little problem obtaining possession, their inability to convert their chances was still apparent, as it took a last minute try to Gavin Cooper to secure the win. This highlights why they have scored the third fewest points in the competition. Moreover, they missed 31 tackles, to their opponents’ 23. As such, it can be said that this is one reason why their defence has been poor all season.
The away record of the Cowboys is much like their home record, in that they have lost 7 matches. Only the Bulldogs and Eels have lost more games away from home. Their only away victories have come against the Panthers and Sea Eagles. As such, they have not beaten a top 4 side away from home this season, or at all. Having said that, they were desperately unfortunate against the Rabbitohs in both their matches against them this season. Their most recent match against the Roosters will give the Cowboys some confidence, with the knowledge that they can upset them in Sydney.
The start of this season had seen almost all tipsters have these two sides pencilled in as certainties for finals participation. Unfortunately, only one team will be meeting this expectation, as the Roosters continue their quest to finish in the top 4, as they challenge for the premiership. For the Cowboys, finals participation has been out of reach for a while, and they must now focus on avoiding the wooden spoon.
The tricolours are in red-hot form and are very difficult to handle, with their star players firing on all cylinders. All they need to, in order to put together a complete performance is avoid lapses in concentration and eliminate their errors. The Cowboys may have won last week, however, they will need to be better at capitalising on their opportunities when they are presented with them. I say this, because for all the Knights’ profligacy in the second half, the Cowboys almost fell short yet again. Fortunately, that was not the case. However, the Roosters are made of considerably sterner stuff and are much more clinical with the ball than the Knights. Therefore, they are more than capable of inflicting punishment on their opponents.
One appealing factor in this match is the matchup between legendary halves Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, as the former halves pairing for the Queensland Maroons prepare to battle it out for one final time. Both Cronk and JT know each other’s games very well. Cronk will be keen to see out his dominance over Thurston with yet another win while helping his teammates avenge their loss to the Cowboys in last year’s preliminary final. Meanwhile, JT will be looking to see out his final battle with his good mate with a victory.
As great as it was to see the Cows arrest their 5five-match losing streak and come from behind at halftime for the first time ever this season, the Chooks simply have too many big guns who are firing at the right time. Therefore, whilst JT will give his all and attempt to rally his troops in their quest to avoid the wooden spoon, it’s difficult to envision anything other than a Roosters victory. As such, whilst the Cowboys will give it their best shot, it will prove insufficient against an in-form Roosters outfit. Roosters by 10.
Who will come out on top when the Roosters host the Cowboys on Saturday night? Let us know in the comments below.