NRL Round 20: Tigers v Cowboys Previews & Betting Tips

The finals have arrived early for the Tigers and Cowboys – the loser could be done for 2019 as we kickoff Round 20.

James Baxter
Wed, 31 Jul, 12:00 AM

Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys – Leichhardt Oval 7:50pm

The Tigers ensured Robbie Farah’s 300th NRL appearance was a night to remember, their 28-26 win over Newcastle ensuring their finals chances remain alive after their recent losing streak. Farah announced midweek he’ll hang up the boots come season’s end and his trademark sneak from a metre out for a try in the second half was crucial for the Tigers.

Coach Michael Maguire would have been a relieved man afterwards, hardly doing cartwheels at what his side dished out in defence but no doubt excited with Wests looking as convincing in attack as they have under his reign.

Corey Thompson is an unsung hero at fullback and after his double some Tigers fans poked fun at their beloved number one now boasting a superior try scoring strike rate in the number one jersey (0.83) than their old boy James Tedesco (0.67).

Thompson epitomises the Tigers’ work ethic in punching far above his weight, putting your body on the line in defence and making the most of any attacking chances. Benji Marshall is tipped to carry on in 2020 and if he continues the form he showed against Newcastle as well he should.

The Tigers are yet to truly hit their groove in an inconsistent 2019 and one win – as crucial as it was – doesn’t redeem three prior disappointing performances. In professional wrestling terms, their Cowboys match may as well be a “loser leaves town” match with the victim getting a head start on September vacation planning. Wests might have flicked the switch on their attacking firepower at a time they needed it the most.

It was heartbreak in the Shire for the Cowboys, their 16-14 loss to Cronulla a serious blow to their top eight aspirations and leaves Thursday night’s game must-win. Coach Paul Green might feel like his side have been the victims of a pre-season curse with the constant rate of injuries depriving his side of the majority of first-choice backs in their season-defining stretch of Roosters, Rabbitohs, Sharks and now North Queensland.

It’s remarkable for such an understrength side to have performed as well as they have in the last three weeks – unfortunately though with only a win against the Chooks to currently show, they’re on the outside looking in for the finals.

The promising aspect is the key players who have avoided the devastating injury toll are firing. Hooker Jake Granville has been displaying the creativity which once had him mooted as a possible Cameron Smith replacement for Queensland, delivering two try assists and taking pressure off young halfback Jake Clifford.

Jason Taumalolo’s 182m powerhouse effort was a highlight while the Cowboys would be wishing Scott Drinkwater joined their list in January instead of June – the fullback is looking a class act and without his mid-year recruitment from Melbourne it’s hard to see the Cowboys remaining in the finals chase.

Matt Scott’s impending retirement has also seen the veteran pick up his game knowing the end is near, and their Leichhardt showdown is an official elimination final.

With Michael Morgan passing HIA protocols to re-join the side, North Queensland will be aiming for a Tigers ambush after being on the receiving end the last time they faced.

Key stats

- The Tigers have won 4 of their last 5 against the Cowboys, including their 27-26 golden point win in round 14.

- Wests have also won their last 6 first halves over North Queensland. North Queensland have only won once from their previous 6 starts.

- Tigers fullback Corey Thompson is on a roll, scoring 4 tries in his last 4 games.

The Cowboys have not won at Leichhardt Oval since 2000.

Tip: Tigers

Best bet: Tigers first half - $1.83* (TopBetta)

Value bet: Corey Thompson anytime tryscorer - $2.63* (Sportsbet)

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