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Wests Tigers return to Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon for an all-important clash against the North Queensland Cowboys to keep their finals hopes alive.

Last start wins over the St. George-Illawarra Dragons and Parramatta Eels have put Jason Taylor’s team on the precipice of the top-eight, with only for-and-against separating the eighth-placed Warriors and the tenth-placed Wests Tigers heading into this week.

The home side has never won three games in a row under Taylor, but with a good run of momentum on their side and a strong crowd at Leichhardt Oval expected for Sunday, a clash against the visiting Cowboys could perhaps see that winning streak continue.

While the game will be won and lost in the battle of the forwards, much of the pre-game talk will focus on the halfbacks of both teams. Luke Brooks will not play for Wests Tigers after picking up a knee injury against the Eels — replaced by Jack Littlejohn — while Cowboys inspirational leader Jonathan Thurston was not named to return from a hamstring injury that kept him out of his side’s last start defeat to the Melbourne Storm.

Cowboys Coach Paul Green remained tight-lipped when quizzed about Thurston’s possible inclusion, saying that the playmaker was a 50-50 chance and would be given every possible chance to prove his fitness and take to the field. Should he remain out, Ray Thompson will partner Michael Morgan in the halves — as they did last weekend.

Wests Tigers boast an impressive record over the Cowboys at Leichhardt, having not lost at the venue since 2000, but they’ll need to be at their best come Sunday afternoon if they’re to knock off the defending premiers and keep their top eight hopes in tact.

Sunday afternoon footy returns to Leichhardt Oval when we take on the Cowboys!

Match Details

Date — Sunday, August 7, 2016

Time — 4:00pm AEST

Venue — Leichhardt Oval (Mary St., Lilyfield)

 

Match Officials

On-Field Referees — Gerard Sutton and Alan Shortall

Touch Judges — Jeff Younis and Rickey Macfarlane

Review Officials — Bernard Sutton, Matt Cecchin and Luke Patten

 

TV, Live Stream and Radio Information

TV — Live via Channel 9 and Fox Sports 1 (subscription required)

Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital Pass (subscription required)

Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, FM 104.9 Triple M (check local guides)

 

Confirmed Squads

Wests Tigers

 

North Queensland Cowboys

James Tedesco

1

Lachlan Coote

David Nofoaluma

2

Javid Bowen

Tim Simona

3

Justin O’Neill

Kevin Naiqama

4

Kane Linnett

Jordan Rankin

5

Antonio Winterstein

Mitchell Moses

6

Michael Morgan

Jack Littlejohn

7

Ray Thompson

Aaron Woods (capt.)

8

Matt Scott (capt.)

Dene Halatau

9

Jake Granville

Sauaso Sue

10

James Tamou

Josh Aloiai

11

Gavin Cooper

Chris Lawrence

12

Ethan Lowe

Elijah Taylor

13

Jason Taumalolo

Kyle Lovett

14

Rory Kostjasyn

Ava Seumanufagai

15

Josh Asiata

Tim Grant

16

Scott Bolton

Joel Edwards

17

Ben Hannant

Michael Chee Kam

18

 

Jason Taylor

Coach

Paul Green

 

2016 Recent Results

Wests Tigers

R16 — Melbourne Storm 29 def. Wests Tigers 20

R17 — Wests Tigers 34 def. Penrith Panthers 26

R18 — Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 32 def. Wests Tigers 22

R20 — Wests Tigers 25 def. St. George-Illawarra Dragons 12

R21 — Wests Tigers 23 def. Parramatta Eels 8
 

North Queensland Cowboys

R16 — North Queensland Cowboys 30 def. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 26

R17 — North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. South Sydney Rabbitohs 0

R18 — Canberra Raiders 26 def. North Queensland Cowboys 12

R20 — North Queensland Cowboys 36 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0

R21 — Melbourne Storm 16 def. North Queensland Cowboys 8

 

Last Time They Met — North Queensland 8 def. Wests Tigers 0 (Rd.11, 2015)

With numerous State of Origin players missing from both teams on the night, it was a tight and scrappy affair when both teams last met at Campbelltown in 2015. An early penalty goal to Ethan Lowe was all that separated the match, with Wests Tigers bombing several chances to win the game late on, before a try to Antonio Winterstein in the final minute of play ensured an eight-point win for the eventual Grand Final winners.

 

The History

·       Against the Cowboys — Played 31, Won 16, Lost 15, Drawn 0

·       At Leichhardt Oval — Played 6, Won 5, Lost 1, Drawn 0

 

Player to Watch — Jason Taumalolo, North Queensland Cowboys

There’s plenty of threats to watch out wide for the visitors, but it’s the platform that their big men lay that allow those players room to work — meaning the focus for Wests Tigers this week is on stopping the Cowboys’ big three forwards. The youngest of those is Kiwi international Jason Taumalolo, who sits third in the league for running metres with an impressive average 163 metres per game. His explosive running particularly late in the match has proven to be crucial for his team this season, so Wests Tigers must be switched on with their line speed and spacing to contain the wrecking ball forward and reduce his impact. An intriguing personal battle of the locks between former Kiwi international Elijah Taylor — known for his defensive prowess — and Taumalolo looms on Sunday.

 

Three Final Facts

·       Wests Tigers have kicked field goals in each of their last two wins

·       Jake Granville leads the NRL in turnover tackles in 2016 (13)

·       Wests Tigers have not lost to the Cowboys at Leichhardt Oval since 2000