ROUND 22 kicks off with the North Queensland Cowboys hosting the Brisbane Broncos at 1300SMILES Stadium. These two teams have produced some classics in recent years, and we could be in for another given it’s Johnathan Thurston’s final Queensland derby.
The main team changes are in the Broncos’ camp. Down 36-12 and desperate for points late in their match against the Bulldogs last week, the Broncos went back to the familiar, with captain Darius Boyd reverting from centre to fullback and pushing rookie sensation Jamayne Isaako back to the wing.
The shift provided immediate impact with the Broncos looking dangerous again down their left edge. They’re sticking with that formation again this week, with Boyd at fullback, Isaako on the wing and debutant Gehamat Shibasaki making his debut in the centres – forcing New Zealand international Jordan Kahu out of the side.
For the Cowboys, there’s just one change from the side that was outclassed by the Roosters last week, as Corey Jensen comes onto the bench for Shaun Fensom. This means we’ll again see the Cowboys’ spine feature Te Maire Martin at fullback and rookie Jake Clifford alongside Thurston in the halves.
A Final Classic?
In his final Queensland derby, can Thurston break the Broncos’ hearts one last time?
The Broncos and Cowboys are five games apiece in the Wayne Bennett vs Paul Green era. The Cowboys, however, will always have the 2015 premiership as a tiebreaker in this contest.
In their ten clashes since Bennett returned to Red Hill, nine have been decided by 12 points or less. Six of those were decided by six points or less.
In 2018, 70 per cent of Cowboys matches have been decided by twelve points or less. In their last five at home, the Cowboys have had only one match exceed the twelve-point margin – a fourteen-point loss to the Dragons. Against top-eight teams, Cowboys matches have an average margin of just six points.
The Broncos have played ten matches against bottom eight teams this year, winning six. The average margin in these matches has been 10 points, which is quite low when you remember their 34-0 victory over the Titans.
The Broncos’ defence will keep the Cowboys in this game, as it continues to be their downfall. They average 21 conceded points per game in 2018 and that will only help the Cowboys as they try to send JT off as a winner.
Despite their positions on the ladder, this one looks to be another nail-biter.
Tip: Either Team by 10 or Less @ $1.80 (Sportsbet) (2 Units)