Storm v Cowboys preview

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Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys Sunday 4:05pm at Sunshine Coast Stadium

Cowboys look to do the impossible against benchmark Melbourne outfit

Second versus fourteenth. Premiership threats against possible wooden spooners. On the surface, this looks like one for tipsters to pick the home side and not think about again, and there will be many who follow that strategy, and probably to success. 

BUT, and there's always a but, the Cowboys recently broke their 9-game losing streak and will be on a moral high. Adding to that, the Storm have rested star fullback Ryan Papenhayzen and are still without Dale Finucane. So despite the odds being stacked against them, there is a small chance that they can pull off the miracle win to end all miracle wins.

Last week, the Storm did what they've done so many times before and found a way to win against a South Sydney side that was gallant for the first 60 minutes. The win keeps them two points clear in second place ahead of Parramatta, while the Cowboys finally gave their fans something to cheer about, with a win courtesy of a Valentine Holmes field goal in extra time.

As alluded to, Ryan Papenhayzen is out of this one and will have another impressive rookie in Nicho Hynes replacing him. Suli Vunivalu is back from injury earlier than expected and will return on the wing, pushing Isaac Lumelume to the bench. Christian Welch will miss a week with suspension, but Nelson Asofa-Solomona is back just in time to act as a like-for-like replacement. Ryley Jacks has been named on the bench again but don't be surprised to see him drop out of the squad on game day like he did last week.

The Cowboys are 1-17 from the side that broke the drought in golden point last week, however Gavin Cooper has been named to start and Tom Gilbert on the bench. This will in all likelihood be reversed on Sunday, as was done against the Dragons.

While the Storm have had to relocate indefinitely due to the COVID 19 situation in Victoria, they have done a superb job of keeping up the reputation as most feared road trip in the NRL at their home away from home, Sunshine Coast Stadium. They are currently 4 from 4 in all matches played there and will look to leave a lasting impression on the locals. With just the Wests Tigers left to make the journey up north, it'll be interesting to see if and when the Storm's first defeat on the coast comes.

Last meeting: Round 25 2019 - Storm 24 Cowboys 16

Who to watch: Storm young gun Tino Faasuamaleaui has quietly cemented himself as a starter in the Melbourne pack thanks largely to injury, but some of his performances have been top notch. Last week, in just 49 minutes on the field, he made 10 runs for 101 metres, 2 tackle busts and a line break as well as bagging his 5th try of the year. It's early days in his career but if he keeps this up, Tino could be the Storm's X-Factor in the finals. We'll have to wait and see if he can break the curse of players underperforming after leaving the Storm system when he makes the move to the Titans next year.

After being in indifferent form for much of the Cowboys 2020 campaign, Scott Drinkwater last week reminded us all of the incredible talent that he possesses. After spending some time at fullback, Drinkwater returned to what many consider his better position of five-eighth and furthered his case to be Michael Morgan's long-term halves partner. He finished with 115 metres, 2-line break assists and one tackle bust, but what stood out was his two try assists in the last 20 minutes that kept the Cowboys in the game, including a brilliant inside ball to Valentine Holmes that showed signs of a very dangerous combination.

The favourite: The Storm are overwhelming favourites to continue their surge into the finals against North Queensland.

My tip: As much as most people would love this game to be a close one, I just don't see it. While the Cowboys win last week was great, they only just snuck home against a Dragons side that gave them way too many opportunities and I doubt the Cowboys will be able to remain competitive against a Storm side which just doesn't give teams that luxury. Storm by 18.

1. Nicholas Hynes 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Brenko Lee 4. Justin Olam 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 14. Ryley Jacks 15. Darryn Schonig 18. Tom Eisenhuth 20. Tui Kamikamica

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O'Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 16. Tom Gilbert 12. Mitchell Dunn 13. Josh Mcguire 11. Gavin Cooper 14. Daejarn Asi 15. John Asiata 17. Corey Jensen

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: Peter Gough, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Henry Perenara;

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