Perfect first half sees Panthers outgun Raiders
9 hours ago | Adam Huxtable
The longest road-trip in the NRL awaits the North Queensland Cowboys has they look to buck a run of bad form when they travel to Auckland to take on the Warriors on Saturday evening.
The Warriors come into the clash off some mixed form, with 2 wins from their first 5 matches this season. In their last start, they succumbed to a heart-breaking loss when they fell to a 28-24 defeat on the Sunshine Coast up against South Sydney. Last weekend were able to run out to a 24-12 lead during the mid-way stages of the match before the Rabbitohs brought things level, and eventually overtook them to win it in the final 90 seconds.
Their two wins this season have come when they have been at home at Mt Smart, however their third match in NZ this season - in Christchurch against Manly - was a heavy defeat back in Round 3. In more positive news, the hosts will welcome back Blake Green who missed last week's clash after suffering an injury just prior to kickoff. He is still a concern however, while Green is named to start there is still some doubt on whether he will return this week.
In Round 5, North Queensland suffered their fourth straight defeat when they fell to an 18-12 loss against the ladder-leading Melbourne Storm. The Cowboys looked good again in patches but they were never able to gain any dominance at any stage, and eventually the visitors took the lead and weren't chased down.
While the Townsville-based side opened their season looking impressive with a win over the Dragons, but they have failed to impress in the weeks since, slipping to a 1-4 record after five rounds. They have lost Nene McDonald for the what looks like the season, after his much-publicised serious ankle injury. Justin O'Neill comes into the squad as his replacement. Elsewhere in the lineup, the visitors get a much-needed experience boost with Scott Bolton returning from his NRL-enforced suspension.
Last meeting: Round 15 2018 - Cowboys 16 Warriors 23
The two sides have played on 35 occasions in the past 20 years, with the victories split 18-17 in favour of the Cowboys, however the Cowboys have only won twice in Auckland since 2006.
Who to watch: Kiwi youngster Chanel Harris-Tavita has made a good impression in his two NRL games to date. He has shown good attack in notching up a try assist in the two games he's played so far, and defensively he has been very sound with 88% tackle efficiency. Last weekend, Harris-Tavita had to lead the Warriors attack in the halves, and if Blake Green is indeed ruled out again then he'll have to lead the attack again, and it will be key to see how he performs.
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville has had a less than ideal start to 2019, and it was proven last week when Paul Green elected to keep backup hooker Kurt Baptiste on the field for the second half instead of his star number 9. The 30-year-old premiership player has struggled to make an impact, with very few dummy half runs and no try assists or line break assists thus far.
The favourite: The Warriors go into the match as heavy favourites given the differences in performances this season, and their record at home compared to the Cowboys.
My tip: It's hard to go past the Warriors back at home, they have played extremely well in their two games at Mt Smart Stadium, and their performance against Souths was nearly good enough to get a win. The Cowboys will need to find something big to overturn their poor run, but I can't see it happening this Saturday. Warriors by 20.
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 21. Gerard Beale 4. Solomone Kata 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Chanel Harris-tavita 3. Peta Hiku 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Tohu Harris 13. Lachlan Burr 14. Jazz Tevaga 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Isaiah Papalii 18. Nathaniel Roache
1. Te Maire Martin 2. Justin O'Neill 3. Jordan Kahu 4. Enari Tuala 5. Ben Hampton 6. Jake Clifford 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Josh McGuire 13. John Asiata 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Coen Hess 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo
Referees: Peter Gough, Jon Stone; Sideline Officials: Kasey Badger, Drew Oultram; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Beau Scott;