Round 5 Preview: Warriors vs Cowboys

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New Zealand Warriors vs North Queensland Cowboys
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, NZ
Saturday, April 7th, 2018
5:30pm (NSW, QLD), 7:30pm (NZ)

1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c)
2 David Fusitua
3 Peta Hiku
4 Solomone Kata
5 Ken Maumalo
6 Blake Green
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Bunty Afoa
9 Issac Luke
10 Agnatius Paasi
11 Leivaha Pulu
12 Tohu Harris
13 Adam Blair

Interchange14 Jazz Tevaga, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Simon Mannering, 17 Anthony Gelling

Reserves: 18 Ligi Sao, 19 Mason Lino, 20 Tevita Satae, 21 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

1 Ben Hampton
2 Kyle Feldt
3 Justin O'Neill
4 Javid Bowen
5 Antonio Winterstein
6 Michael Morgan
7 Johnathan Thurston (c)
8 Matthew Scott (c)
9 Jake Granville
10 Scott Bolton
11 Gavin Cooper
12 Coen Hess
13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange: 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 John Asiata, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Ethan Lowe 
Reserves: 18 Francis Molo, 19 Lachlan Coote, 20 Enari Tuala, 21 Kyle Laybutt
If you predicted that at the start of the season, the Warriors would be at 4-0, you should go and buy a lottery ticket. The Warriors have played incredibly well within the first month, and even with Shaun Johnson out last week they played superb football away against the Roosters. Shaun Johnson is back this week, replacing a solid Mason Lino while Simon Mannering returns on the bench at the expense of 
The Cowboys looked lost at home last week, ending up with their tails between their own legs and with a 1-3 record. The Panthers outplayed the Cowboys, walking away with a 33-14 win. Thurston looked out of sorts, so expect the Queensland great to come back firing against an in-form Warriors. Jordan McLean is out for three months with a broken foot, so Scott Bolton will start and Corey Jensen will be on the bench.
Key Match-Ups
Jonathon Thurston v Shaun Johnson
The big match up this week is the battle of the halfbacks, with the in-form Shaun Johnson against the legend in Jonathon Thurston. Johnson has been able to be more creative with Blake Green doing a lot of the nitty-gritty half work, which has led to the resurgence of the SJ/RTS combo. Thurston has still not had his preferred spine with Lachlan Coote still not named in the 1, although Hampton looked better last week. If the Warriors give JT a sniff, he will tear them apart. 
The winger battle
The Cowboys wingers have their hands full here, with two incredibly agile giants in David Fusitua and Ken Maumalo looking for chips and bombs galore. The big men generally get it on a dime from the halves and Feldt has been known to have a case of the butterfingers, but the defense of the Warrior wingers is average at best with Feldt being a contortionist at times. It shall be quite a good, potentially underrated battle.
Jake Granville vs Isaac Luke
Give either number nine a sniff and you will see both go harrowing down the field looking for a line break. Isaac Luke is looking better this year, as he tries to recreate his form at the Rabbitohs. Jake Granville had a breakout 2016 and is looking to get back to his best. While both teams leave the line early, both hookers can also nabbed defenders in the ruck and get a quick few metres or burrow over the line. Expect one, if not both to score this week. 
This could be a sneaky contender for match of the round, despite the Cowboys record. The Warriors are lethal at home, and the Cowboys are looking to fire up and get their season back on track. Anything could happen, but I am not seeing the upset away from home.

Prediction: Warriors 36-18


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