The Cowboys and Eels do battle in what should be an intriguing contest in Friday night footy.
Parramatta never looked in doubt against the Panthers last week and after scoring early, dictated most of the play to run out 18-12 winners over their neighbours from the foot of the mountains.
North Queensland registered a tradesman-like win over Newcastle 24-12 without Johnathan Thurston but the champion playmaker could be making his return in this match but that will be known much closer to kick-off time.
JT NAMED ON EXTENDED BENCH
Coach Paul Green has named Thurston on an extended bench to make his return from injury.
Even if he doesn’t line up for this game, the Cowboys have found a suitable replacement in John Asiata. In his two games so far he has created three tries and made three linebreaks.
Importantly, North Queensland’s attack hasn’t suffered a great deal in Thurston’s absence with the side registering 20 points or more in both games over the past fortnight. In fact, they’ve topped that total in seven of their eight games in 2017.
Statistically that is an important guide to their chances as they have won their past 39 games in Townsville when they have scored 19 points or more.
PARRAMATTA has now won back-to-back games for the second time this season.
Importantly their last victories over the Eels and Tigers were ‘derby’ matches so Brad Arthur would’ve had his squad pumped up to break their four-game losing streak.
Parra’s attack hasn’t been too bad this season despite injuries to key players at different times of the season. They are currently averaging 18.25ppg but have topped up that amount to 22 in the past fortnight.
An interesting stat surrounding their four wins in 2017 sees the Eels defence on-song when they are victorious, which is no surprise. They have conceded just 15.5 ppg when that figure is 24.5 when they have tasted defeat.
North Queensland definitely has the advantage in recent times.
Seven of the past nine fixtures have gone their way while nine of the past 10 at 1300Smiles Stadium have resulted in the home side collecting the two points.
One of the Eels’ two wins of late was at Pirtek Stadium early last season when they had Kieran Foran dictating play in the halves.
This one will mainly depend on if Thurston plays a part in the game or not.
If he doesn’t then we are tempted to take the $2.60 @ Topbetta about their chances of success. While the Cowboys have been okay without him, they definitely haven’t been the team we’ve known to punt on in the past few seasons.
Remember, Matt Scott is out for the season and his loss has been a huge one for North Queensland who have already dropped two games at home this season.
Parramatta at the Line (+6) looks a good bet and that is returning $1.91 @ bet365 so if you don’t think they can win, but will still give the Cowboys a run for their money, that is the safe bet even though they will be without Brad Takarangi which is somewhat of a blow.
If you are one to play in Tryscorer markets then consider Michael Jennings (three tries in his past four games) and Josh Hoffman (six tries against the Cowboys) as two players worth backing.
PARRAMATTA +6.5 LINE
MICHAEL JENNINGS TO SCORE A TRY