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The North Queensland Cowboys will need to be near-perfect at home in the relaunched NRL season, and they get the chance to start that on the right foot when they host the Gold Coast Titans in Friday’s early game. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 6pm (AEDT).
With matchday travel on the cards for the foreseeable future, the Cowboys are the most disadvantaged side. Their shortest trip to Brisbane is still a two-hour flight.
That just means they absolutely must win their home games if they want to play finals footy in 2020.
To even think that far ahead though, the Cowboys will need to improve their attack, which was ordinary in a loss to Brisbane and win over the Bulldogs in the opening two rounds.
An injury to half Michael Morgan complicates matters for the returning Cowboys, and while they haven’t indicated so far they’re capable of beating good teams, getting the better of the Titans shouldn’t be a difficult task.
Of particular note will be the performance of Valentine Holmes as he continues his return to the sport following an ill-fated attempt at the NFL.
In a surprise to no one, the Gold Coast started their season with back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Eels. They have scored just 12 points in two games, letting in 70. It’s unacceptable at NRL level, but improvement looks like it’ll be a way off.
Injuries continue to haunt the club as well, with AJ Brimson and Ryan James among those watching from the sidelines, while Kallum Watkins has returned to England.
All that means Tyrone Roberts will play fullback and Jamal Fogarty gets a run in the halves over young gun Tanah Boyd, but in the grand scheme of things, unless their forwards can match it in the middle and Ashley Taylor plays a blinder, it’s unlikely to mean much, if anything, to the overall result.
For the Titans to succeed, they need to be patient and disciplined, prepared to play for 80 minutes and use their bench – featuring Jarrod Wallace and Shannon Boyd – effectively.
It’s where they could have an advantage when the two benches are compared, but given the likelihood of Jason Taumalolo, Coen Hess and Josh McGuire playing big minutes, again, they’ll have to be superb to not allow a platform for Holmes and Jake Granville to cause havoc.
This should be one-way traffic. The Titans are likely to start slow off their long flight north and won’t recover.
Cowboys by 24.
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Kick-off: 6pm (AEST)
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
TV: Fox League 502
Online: Foxtel Now, Kayo Sports, NRL Digital Pass,
Betting: Cowboys $1.33, Titans $3.36
Overall record: Played 23, Cowboys 15, Titans 8
Referee: Henry Perenara
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Ben Hampton 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Mitchell Dunn 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14. Reece Robson 15. John Asiata 16. Shane Wright 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Tom Gilbert 20. Tom Opacic 21. Reuben Cotter
Gold Coast Titans
1. Tyrone Roberts 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Phillip Sami 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Nathan Peats 10. Sam Lisone 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow
Interchange: 14. Erin Clark 15. Jai Whitbread 16. Jarrod Wallace 17. Shannon Boyd 18. Bryce Cartwright 19. Mitch Rein 20. Brian Kelly 21. Jonus Pearson