Round 10 begins with what shapes as a high profile clash with two sides desperate for a win to get their seasons back on track. One side sitting on the edge of the top eight and the other outside the eight and both with a point to prove makes for a hot contest between the two sides.
The Tigers started the season with a bang claiming some big scalps with wins over the Roosters and the Storm on two occasions sending out a warning to the rest of the competition but in recent weeks have struggled to find that same early season form and come into this one on the back of three consecutive losses that have seen them slide down the ladder over recent weeks.
The Cowboys were picked by many to go deep into the finals in 2018 but have been a shell of themselves throughout the early rounds of the season, last week they seemingly kicked back into with a shock win over the Panthers and looked more like the side that many predicted they would be this year.
2017 - Round 25 - North Queensland Cowboys 22 def Wests Tigers 14 Campbelltown Stadium
2017 - Round 6 - Wests Tigers 26 def North Queensland Cowboys 16 1300SMILES Stadium
2016 - Round 22 - Wests Tigers 26 def North Queensland Cowboys 14 Leichhardt Oval
2015 - Round 11 - North Queensland Cowboys 8 def Wests Tigers 0 Campbelltown Stadium
2014 - Round 22 - North Queensland Cowboys 64 def Wests Tigers 6 1300SMILES Stadium
History shows contests between the two sides in the recent meetings slightly favour the Cowboys but in the overall head to head the Tigers have the edge in this fixture 18 wins to 16 which includes the famous Grand Final victory in 2005.
|Wests Tigers||North Queensland Cowboys|
|1||Corey Thompson||Lachlan Coote|
|2||David Nofoaluma||Kyle Feldt|
|3||Esan Marsters||Justin O'Neill|
|4||Kevin Naiqama||Ben Hampton|
|5||Mahe Fonua||Antonio Winterstein|
|6||Benji Marshall||Michael Morgan|
|7||Luke Brooks||Johnathan Thurston|
|8||Russell Packer||Matt Scott|
|9||Elijah Taylor||Jake Granville|
|10||Ben Matulino||Scott Bolton|
|11||Chris Lawrence||Gavin Cooper|
|12||Robbie Rochow||Coen Hess|
|13||Matthew Eisenhuth||Jason Taumalolo|
|14||Alex Twal||Te Maire Martin|
|15||Jacob Liddle||Shaun Fensom|
|16||Michael Chee-Kam||Corey Jensen|
|17||Sauaso Sue||Ethan Lowe|
|18||Tim Grant||Francis Molo|
|19||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak||Javid Bowen|
|20||Chris McQueen||Jake Clifford|
|21||Tyson Gamble||Sam Hoare|
The facts that matter
In the early rounds of the season a big part of the Tigers success was their defence, keeping competition heavyweights the Storm and the Roosters to under 10 points but in their recent string of loses their defence has been a cause for concern having conceded over 20 points in each of the last 3 games.
Russell Packer returns to the Tigers squad for the first time since round 5 and is sure to add real strength to the Tigers middle. The forwards struggled to make a dent in the Warriors line last week so Packer will be a huge inclusion in that department.
The Tigers have the home field advantage which could prove vital since the Cowboys have only won 1 game away from home all season and have only ever won one game at Leichhardt Oval out of the 7 games played at this venue.
North Queensland Cowboys
Having only won 3 of their first 9 games the Cowboys can ill afford more losses if they want to stand a chance to go deep into finals football. Despite all the firepower in their star-studded lineup the Cowboys haven't hit the heights many expected though they showed major improvement last time out in the win over the Panthers.
Jason Taumalolo finally burst into life last week will a massive 233 metres and was damaging every time he carried the ball. The massive game by Taumalolo opened up the game for the Cowboys spine to do their thing and expose the Panthers.
Despite their sluggish start to the season it's not yet panic stations for the boys from the north who have pulled off magical runs of wins in the past, in last years finals series they were without several star players and written off by many but still pushed all the way to Grand final against the odds.
I'm predicting a close encounter of the scoreboard, I expect the Tigers to bounce back from the poor form of late spurned on by their return to Leichhardt Oval but the Cowboys will be greatly encouraged by their performance last week with a win that may well signal a return to the form many expected from them at the start of the season. Cowboys to come out on top in this one by 4
Can the Cowboys continue their resurgence or will the Tigers get back on track at Leichhardt Oval? Let us know in the comments below.