Wests Tigers will look to get back on track when they take on the North Queensland Cowboys this Thursday night in the first game at Leichhardt Oval this season.
Three straight defeats for Ivan Cleary's side has seen them slip from the top four to just inside the top eight on for-and-against, and they'll be determined to end their poor run of form this Thursday against a Cowboys side that has produced a number of mixed performances so far in season 2018.
Last week, it was a resilient showing by the boys from Townsville as they held off a plucky Panthers side to record just their third win of the year and they'll be hoping to deliver a similar showing this Thursday.
With Jason Taumalolo back at his bullocking best in the last fortnight, and the halves improving together with every game, Wests Tigers will certainly need to be at their best if they hope to end the Cowboys' recent resurgence. Jonathan Thurston has famously never beaten Wests Tigers in Sydney — including his five trips to Leichhardt Oval — but keeping that record in tact simply won't happen by showing up.
The 26-4 defeat to the New Zealand Warriors last weekend was the heaviest defeat Wests Tigers have suffered all season, and it came off the back of what was probably their worst performance on-field. In a season that has been defined by defensive resilience and discipline with the ball, Cleary's men certainly fell down in that regard and were made to pay as a result, so improving that is no doubt the focus this week.
Having inspirational leader Russell Packer back certainly helps the cause for Wests Tigers — as does playing in front of what is always a voracious crowd at the suburban wonder that is Leichhardt Oval.
Wests Tigers have a better record against North Queensland than any other side in the competition, and the locals will no doubt be hoping that run of form continues in the club's first ever Thursday night game.
Date — Thursday, May 10, 2018
Time — 7:50pm AEST
Venue — Leichhardt Oval (Sydney, NSW)
TV, RADIO AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Fox League (Ch.502) and Channel 9
Radio — AM 702 ABC Grandstand, AM 2GB 873, FM 104.9 Triple M Sydney
Live Stream —Foxtel Go, 9Now, NRL Digital Pass, Watch NRL Streaming (exc. Australia)
LATEST CROWNBET ODDS
Head to Head —Wests Tigers ($2.15), North Queensland Cowboys ($1.70)
Line — Wests Tigers +2.5 ($1.90), North Queensland Cowboys -2.5 ($1.90)
Wests Tigers — 1. Corey Thompson 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Mahe Fonua 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Elijah Taylor 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Robbie Rochow 13. Matt Eisenhuth (Interchange: 14. Alex Twal 15. Jacob Liddle 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Sauaso Sue 18. Tim Grant 20. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak) — Coach: Ivan Cleary
North Queensland Cowboys — 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O'Neill 4. Ben Hampton 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo (Interchange: 14. Te Maire Martin 15. Shaun Fensom 16. Corey Jensen 17. Ethan Lowe 18. Francis Molo 19. Jake Clifford 20. Javid Bowen 21. Sam Hoare)
Team Update: No changes for Wests Tigers with Russell Packer (knee), Jacob Liddle (sternum) and Chris Lawrence (concussion) all set to play on Thursday night in a boost for Ivan Cleary's side. Tim Grant and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak remain in the squad as reserves, while the Cowboys have also confirmed an unchanged squad. Prop Scott Bolton travelled down from Townsville to Sydney today and looks likely to play in a boost for the Cowboys, although there is cover for him still in the squad with Francis Molo retained in the reserves alongside Javid Bowen. Final teams lists will be confirmed at 6:50pm, Thursday.
2018 SEASON SO FAR
|WESTS TIGERS||NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS|
|Position||7th (10 points)||12th (6 points)|
|Points For||152 points (12th)||150 points (13th)|
|Points Against||139 points (2nd)||203 points (12th)|
|Home Form||Won 3, Lost 2||Won 2, Lost 3|
|Away Form||Won 2, Lost 2||Won 1, Lost 3|
|Streak||Lost last 3 games||Won last 1 game|
KEY MATCHUP — Matt Eisenhuth vs. Jason Taumalolo
They might wear the same number on their back, but lock forwards Matt Eisenhuth and Jason Taumalolo couldn't have more opposing styles of play if they tried. Where the Wests Tigers man thrives on his commitment in defence, Taumalolo is brash and bruising in his attack, and both shone in their respective fields last week. With Russell Packer and Elijah Taylor both out over the past month, Eisenhuth has certainly stood up for his side — averaging 46 tackles over the past three weeks. The 25-year-old has already crossed for two tries this year, and continues to churn out remarkable consistency each week, which will definitely be appreciated by Coach Cleary as his side try to regain their discipline and control.
Wests Tigers will likely need him to muscle up in the middle of the field again this week as they try and stop the Tongan superstar in Taumalolo, who similarly has taken his game up a gear in the past month. Down on his own high standards at the start of the season, the 24-year-old's last four weeks make for incredible reading — averaging 17 runs, 183 metres, 30 tackles, 7 tackle breaks and a linebreak per game. It'll certainly be a big challenge trying to stop the big man on Thursday night, but at their best, Wests Tigers have shown more than capable of winning the middle against some strong sides already in 2018.
Referees — Gerard Sutton and Matt Noyen
Touch Judges — Nick Beashel and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Review Officials — Luke Patten and Jared Maxwell