Cowboys v Titans preview

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North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans Sunday 6:15pm at Queensland Country Bank Stadium

Queensland Derby II: Electric Boogaloo kicks off in Townsville on Sunday night. The sparkling Gold Coast Titans travel to face the downtrodden North Queensland Cowboys, aiming to repent and take down the big spenders.

After their big sparkling entrance which ended up damper than Billy Idol at the 2003 Grand Final, the Gold Coast Titans got their first win of the new era against the embattled Brisbane Broncos. It was a showcase for former Bronco, David Fifita, who scored twice and gave a glimpse of the season ahead for the Titans.

Both Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui were tops in their win and will bring consistent effort but the Titans scored all their points through their forward and interchange players last Friday night. Time for the backline to get involved including cult hero Anthony Don who was their top try-scorer in 2020.

Fullback AJ Brimson is a livewire who is always likely to cut open the defense and might run riot against a Cowboys defense that has leaked 49 points in their two losses. Gold Coast Titans will also want to strengthen their claim as Queensland's top team by taking down their northern neighbours to round out Round 3.

The rugby league crisis wheel has spun out to Townsville. Two weeks in the Todd Payten era, there is plenty of riddles for the coach to answer. He questioned Jason Taumalolo who then got injured and post Round 2 said his side "let them off the hook" and need to play with a smile. Key to that is engaging his major playmakers.

It was telling that most of the Cowboys points last weekend came through individual brilliance (Holmes and Granville) and an early leap from Coen Hess. The Cowboys have been in the muck since the retirement of Johnathan Thurston in their search for their next halves. Michael Morgan has been injured and out of form compounded with Scott Drinkwater and Jake Clifford not performing.

Payten will need to rouse a performance similar to those he drew from the Warriors late in 2020 despite their challenges to motivate this Cowboys side. Starting 0 from 3 will make it tough for them to challenge for the top eight and make them prime contenders for the spoon.

So the Queensland derby which always has a bit of spice, might have a whole second serving piled on with the conditions facing both sides if they were unable to fashion a win on the weekend. It would be fatal for the Cowboys and a regression to the mean for the tuned up Titans.

Last meeting: Round 13 2020 - Titans 30 Cowboys 10

Who to watch: It is more three players to watch for North Queensland. Scott Drinkwater, Jake Clifford and Michael Morgan all did their best impression of Casper in the second half against St George Illawarra. All three will be challenged by coach Todd Payten to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and produce more than 20 points. 

Morgan especially as the senior member of the spine needs to stamp his authority on the contest and bring back his form which helped them to the 2017 Grand Final. Drinkwater showed in the back end of 2020 he has the talent but hasn't lived up to his expectations so another dud performance will hear the calls for Val Holmes to take his spot grow louder.

For the Gold Coast Titans, with the possible absence of Ash Taylor, a lot of the playmaking will fall on the shoulders of Jamal Fogarty with Tanah Boyd alongside him in the #6. Fogarty had a breakthrough 2020 season and now needs to take the next step for the Titans to leap into the top eight. He will take a lot of the kicking duties and look to pin back the Cowboys back three then turn maestro in attack. 

The favourite: Coming off their first local derby result of the season, the Titans will be full of energy and ready to heap more misery on the Cowboys.

My tip: The Titans looked much more settled against the Broncos. Their pack should dominate which allows their playmakers to score enough points. Gold Coast by 12.

5. Valentine Holmes 2. Murray Taulagi 3. Esan Marsters 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 18. Justin O'Neill 1. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Francis Molo 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Josh Mcguire 16. Corey Jensen 17. Lachlan Burr

1. Alexander Brimson 2. Anthony Don 3. Phillip Sami 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Corey Thompson 6. Tanah Boyd 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 11. Kevin Proctor 12. David Fifita 14. Tyrone Peachey 10. Moeaki Fotuaika 15. Sam Lisone 16. Jaimin Jolliffe 17. Erin Clark

Referees: Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Wyatt Raymond; Video Referees: Alan Shortall;

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