NRL Round 24: Cowboys v Bulldogs Preview & Betting Tips
It’s the final game at 1300 SMILES Stadium – can the Cowboys go out with a bang against the in-form Bulldogs?
North Queensland Cowboys v Canterbury Bulldogs – 1300 SMILES Stadium – 7:50pm
After an emotional week, the Cowboys responded in the best way possible with a morale-boosting 24-10 win at home to Penrith. With news of club champion Matt Scott suffering a stroke still sinking in, North Queensland delivered their most convincing performance in months to dominate a Panthers side who were aiming to return to the top eight.
Jason Taumalolo’s return was a massive boost, the Tongan Tornado is the heartbeat of his side and had a trademark blockbuster game with a try and 155 run metres to help the Cowboys get their upset win. Kyle Feldt might be one of the unluckiest players in 2019 to still not have representative honours, the winger scoring twice and bringing stability to a backline which has been shuffled more often than a deck of cards this year through injuries.
Rumours persist over a fallout between key playmaker Michael Morgan and coach Paul Green but when you compare their performance to a club in a similar scenario – Newcastle – it’s night and day about which side is on the same page. Scott Drinkwater is improving with every game in the number one jersey and even with the Bulldogs in fine form, the Cowboys will be confident they can finish their home season with a final win. This will be the final game at 1300 SMILES Stadium before the Cowboys move to their brand new facility and given their inaugural match happened against the Dogs in 1995 at this same venue, it’s a fitting way to end an era at the venue.
Do you believe in miracles? If you’re a Bulldogs punter then you’ll be excused for allowing yourself to indulge in around the ten results precisely needing to go your way to make the finals but given their recent turnaround, let’s give Canterbury a ton of credit.
Six wins from their last eight starts has turned the atmosphere Belmore way around. Gone are the rumours of coach Dean Pay being pushed aside sooner rather than later. Concerns over their investment in Kieran Foran have quietened. And perhaps most importantly the Bulldogs – once wooden spoon favourites – are going back to their Dogs of War roots. Their 12-6 defeat of arch-rival Parramatta – all but ending the Eels’ top four hopes – was extremely satisfying for Dogs fans and with good cause.
It continued their trend of grinding out wins on the back of a relentless defensive line shutting out opposition teams. Canterbury’s attacking stats remain low across the league but with such a miserly defence, it reduces the pressure on the rebuilding side to run up huge scores to give themselves a chance.
Josh Jackson is playing like the version of himself who was once mooted as an Origin captain and leading a Bulldogs pack suddenly firing up week in week out. Nick Meaney now looks at home on the wing while Dallin Waetene-Zelezniak is looking an inspired buy with his leadership from fullback. You’d have gotten juicy odds and possibly an HIA two months ago if backing the Bulldogs making the finals and while the Dogs remain all but assured of missing September, their late-season resurgence will ensure their 2020 finals odds aren’t quite so generous.
• North Queensland have a 5-2 record over Canterbury since 2014.
• The Dogs haven’t travelled well this year, with a 1-4 record outside of NSW. In the Cowboys’ 8 wins this year, they’ve trailed at halftime only once.
• In the Bulldogs’ last eight games not once has the total score surpassed 36 points – while in the same time only twice have the Cowboys exceeded that mark.
Best bet: Under 36.5 - $1.90* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Cowboys halftime/fulltime - $2.45* (BetEasy)