Palmerbet Sports Team’s Best of the Day preview picks apart the vital NRL Thursday night showdown between Benji Marshall’s Wests Tigers and the Johnathan Thurston-led North Queensland Cowboys.
19:50 (AEST) @ Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
History: Played 34: Wests Tigers 18 V North Queensland 16.
Last meeting: Round 22, 2017: Wests Tigers 22 d North Queensland 14 at Campbelltown Stadium.
The previously high-flying Wests Tigers are aiming to snap a worrying three-match losing streak, while the North Queensland are striving for back-to-back win for the first time in 2018 – as well as overcoming a Leichhardt hoodoo.
After grinding out five wins in the first six rounds courtesy of their revamped defence, the Tigers have lost to the Knights, Eels and Warriors. Last week’s 26-4 defeat in Auckland was their first this season by more than two points. They weren’t helped by having two players sin-binned.
Russell Packer is a huge in for the Tigers, providing them with genuine authority and leadership up front. Livewire hooker Jacob Liddle also returns on the bench.
He's pumped to be back, but there's something Russell Packer is even more excited about this Thursday…
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) May 8, 2018
The 3-6 Cowboys have won two of their last three, downing the Titans and Panthers either side of a loss to the Raiders.
But their 26-20 victory over the in-form Panthers in Bathurst could be the turning point they have been desperately seeking.
Johnathan Thurston looks to be finding his groove after a flat start to 2018 by his standards, Jason Taumalolo was a rampaging man of the match after his numbers were down over the first eight rounds, and veteran prop Matt Scott menaced the vaunted Penrith pack.
— NRL (@NRL) May 4, 2018
The Scott Bolton saga is an unwelcome distraction, but the front-row stalwart has been named to play.
The Tigers boast a handy 11-5 home record against the Cowboys, though the northerners grabbed a 22-14 win at Campbelltown late last season.
But Leichhardt has been a genuine bogey venue for the Cowboys – they are on a six-match losing streak at the iconic old ground that stretches back to 2001. Incredibly, Thurston has never played in a winning team against the Tigers in Sydney.
The clubs’ suburban Sydney encounters tend to produce hard-fought battles, with the last seven decided by 1-12 margins.
This game screams unders despite four of the Tigers’ last six games and four the Cowboys’ last seven producing totals of 40-plus. But we’re tipping JT to halt his run of outs against the Tigers in Sydney by leading the visitors to a tight win.