The Cowboys premiership credentials are set to be given the acid test.
North Queensland will host ladder leaders Melbourne in what is without doubt the game of the round with Friday Night Football set to be the perfect backdrop.
These sides rarely disappoint when clashing so we think this will go down to the wire.
North Queensland are coming off a defeat to Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium last week by a score of 22-16 which was their first loss in five games.
Melbourne continued to rumble along last Sunday afternoon, giving Cameron Smith a perfect memory of his 350th game when they disposed of the Manly Sea Eagles 40-6.
OUT OF IDEAS
NORTH QUEENSLAND may view last week’s match as the one that got away.
The Cowboys were rumbling along just fine going into halftime up 16-6, however, couldn’t lift significantly enough to stop the Roosters who definitely went up a few gears in the second 40 minutes.
Their attack seemed to be a bit lost at times in the second half and that is where Johnathan Thurston would have come into his own.
The side has done extremely well without their captain but in those situations against a premiership contender they were found out. It has happened a few times this season and all signs point to it happening again on Friday night.
Champion fullback Billy Slater has been included in the Melbourne Storm side for this week’s game which will give the team a huge boost.
Craig Bellamy has chosen to rest Cameron Munster for this week, such is the luxury he has with his squad at the moment, with Slater set to slot straight back into the number one spot.
Missing their custodian didn’t seem to worry them last week as they put 40 points on the Sea Eagles at AAMI Park.
Arguably the most impressive part of the win was holding Manly, who did have the best attack in the competition leading, to just six points. The Storm head into this round ranked number one in attack and defence in the NRL.
MELBOURNE has had the wood on North Queensland for a number of years.
The Storm is looking for five straight wins over the Cowboys for the first time since 2010 which is when they had notched eight straight victories stretching back to 2006.
Matches between these sides are usually tight affairs and margin punters will be keen to know that six of the past seven between the sides has been decided by eight points or less. The only exception was the Preliminary Final of 2015 when the Cowboys ran out 20-point winners on the way to winning their maiden premiership.
The sides did meet earlier this season back in Round 15 but both were without their Origin stars. Despite that the ‘subs’ put on a great show with the Storm winning 23-22 in Golden Point.
The 1-6 Winning Margin for the Storm is paying $6 @ Centrebet and considering that margin has been the result in four of their recent games, it is definitely worth having a few dollars on.
We are pretty confident on MELBOURNE STORM ($1.56 @ Will Hill / Unibet).
They have been the benchmark for most of the season and it seems as though it is going to take a pretty special team to prevent them taking the two competition points on a weekly basis, let alone the premiership.
North Queensland has done remarkably well to be in contention for a top four spot without Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston, however, they are likely to be found out here and without those two they are set for an uphill battle here.
Melbourne is leading the competition in a number of key stats this season and one of the most important going into this is their road record which reads an impressive 9-1. That is enough for us to give them the nod here.
MELBOURNE 1-6 WINNING MARGIN