Key Matchup: Round 6 vs. Cowboys
Two versatile edge forwards will battle it out this Saturday night at 1300 SMILES Stadium in Townsville as Wests Tigers’ Chris Lawrence and North Queensland’s Ethan Lowe go head-to-head in this week’s Phil Gilbert Motor Group Key Matchup.
Vice-captain of the team and preparing for his 200th game in Wests Tigers colours, Lawrence has become one of his team’s most consistent players over the years on the left edge, with his transition from the centres to back row seemingly a thing of the past.
The same can be said in many respects for Lowe, who has similarly become a stalwart on the Cowboys right edge since consolidating a first-grade spot in season 2015.
Primarily playing outside Michael Morgan on the right edge, Lowe has not missed a game for the Cowboys since securing a starting spot at the beginning of the 2015 season, and has continually shown his versatility throughout that time. Coach Paul Green has used the 26-year-old on the edge, lock and front row throughout this year alone.
Both consistent 80-minute players capable of getting through lots of work in attack and defence, the personal battle between Lawrence and Lowe will be fascinating to watch — especially with both players possessing excellent try-scoring records for forwards.
Other key positional match-ups to keep an eye on include James Tedesco v Lachlan Coote, Elijah Taylor v Jason Taumalolo and David Nofoaluma v Gideon Gela-Mosby.
All the numbers
Consistent performers for their respective sides, Lawrence has the slight edge over Lowe when it comes to attacking stats this year — with a try and a try-assist to his name already — but Lowe’s workrate on the ground slightly edges that of the Wests Tigers man.
Lowe has accounted for 712 metres (and 285 post-contact) while Lawrence has 412 metres to his name, 140 of which have come post-contact. And while the Cowboys enforcer seemingly has an advantage in terms of defence (with 131 tackles to Lawrence’s 118) it’s worth noting that Lawrence has a superior effective tackle percentage of 90.6 percent this year, as well as just nine missed tackles compared to 19.
While coming up each other in teams for since Lowe’s debut back in 2013, only in recent times have the pair directly marked each other following Lawrence’s transition into the second row.
The first was during the Origin period in 2015 when both players ironically stepped up to captain their respective teams, with the Cowboys winning 8-0 at Campbelltown.
The second was the following year at Leichhardt Oval in Round 22, when Lawrence’s Wests Tigers got their revenge with a convincing 26-14 victory.
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Lawrence's milestone game
Lawrence will become just the fourth player in Wests Tigers history to play 200 NRL games for the Club this Saturday, and incredibly, he’ll do at only 28 years of age. What’s worth noting too is his record in milestone games throughout his career.
Lawrence scored in and won his 1st NRL match back in 2006 against the Broncos; he scored a double and won his 50th NRL match back in 2009 against the Rabbitohs.
He also won his 100th NRL match in 2012 — a 17-16 Golden Point victory against the Sharks.
Oh, and while we’re at it, he also scored in and won his international debut against New Zealand, as well as his first finals appearance against the Canberra Raiders in 2010.
What role will Lowe play?
With the emergence of Coen Hess as an up-and-coming powerhouse on the edge, Lowe’s role has been adjusted by Green over the past few weeks — moving to the front row and into lock at times. Compounded further by the loss of prop Matt Scott to a long-term injury, Lowe featured at prop before Hess went off with concussion, and the Cowboys could again see a late shuffle to feature like they did last week. Whatever role Lowe does play, though, he’ll certainly be sure to leave an impact come Saturday night.
What he said...
“They’ve got a NSW front-rower in Aaron Woods leading the charge, and obviously young players around that to back it up. James Tedesco is roaming around out the back, so it’ll be a big day for us in the middle. Guys like Tedesco look for opportunity in the middle with lazy and tired defenders, so we’re really going to have to be on our guard for the entire game.”