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Preview: Sea Eagles v Cowboys

Matt Scott proves a handful for the Sea Eagles in last year's finals series.

Matt Scott proves a handful for the Sea Eagles in last year's finals series. Photo: Getty Images

Twelve months is a long time in "––––––––" (sport/politics/finance/horticulture/prison). If you selected 'sport', may I direct you to tonight's semi-final between Manly and the Cowboys. If you selected 'prison', I hope you have TV privileges over coming weekends.

Two teams have found a way back to the same place, at almost the same time, with the same stakes. But one constant has changed over the course of a season. The Cowboys are a totally different team than the one trounced 42-8 by Manly in week one of the 2011 finals.

With some key players missing, some key players firing and Manly fans once again in boycott mode at the thought of a mildly harrowing commute, here's how they shape up.

Six degrees of preparation...

Two schools of thought here. If you like your teams bitter and twisted and raging against various machines, Manly has teed this one up pretty well. Again, the club and the fans aren't impressed about not hosting the game at Brookvale Oval. The picket line has gone up and only around 1000 Manly members had decided to run the gauntlet by late yesterday, making for a crowd of about 15,000 tonight, which is hilariously awful if accurate.

Manly managed to derive some sort of sadistic pleasure about playing in a half-empty stadium last year against the Cowboys, flogging them like convicts that nicked a rum ration and going on to win the premiership. After a week one loss to the Dogs, the suspension of Steve Matai and the venue debate, the Sea Eagles should have exactly the same mindset this time around. They're more intense than breakfast with Colonel Nathan R Jessup.

On the other hand, if you like your teams purring like one of Cristiano Ronaldo's cars, the Cowboys should do it for you. They looked a full class above Brisbane in week one and their winning streak now stretches to five games. Their attack looks as good any any of the remaining teams and Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston have been back-slapping each other so often they're leaving permanent outlines.

The club's only problem is having to get on a plane. Which brings me to the small matter of....

The Cowboys never winning in Sydney

North Queensland have won just four of their past 25 games in the New South Wales capital and the Sea Eagles have sent them tumbling from the finals twice. You can't sugarcoat that sort of data. Those are the sort of figures that could be made pointless if the Cowboys win tonight but at the moment, it's their biggest impediment to victory.

In Townsville, at times it looks like the Cowboys could win blindfolded. In Sydney, especially in their first-round finals loss last year, they've looked liked they couldn't see two feet in front of their face.

Ins and outs

Suffice to say, Steve Matai is a key loss for Manly, particularly when the Cowboys bring a big, strong, hard-running centre of their own to the table in Brent Tate, whose form is more impressive than his famous chin. His runs from dummy-half are a feature of Cowboy play.

Manly's other centre, Jamie Lyon, has a calf injury and still remains in doubt. If he does play, he could be curtailed or may not see out the game, none of which bode well for the Sea Eagles. He's incredibly influential on the right side. The Cowboys lose Aaron Payne and start James Segeyaro at hooker. Payne's service is crisper but Segeyaro brings danger near the line, big defence and a flat-top.

How do you stop James Tamou and Matt Scott?

I have no idea. You?

First week efforts

The always astute Jason Taylor is wondering whether Manly is a champion side throwing punches on the way to the canvas. They weren't terrible against the Bulldogs by any means but weren't able to go with them when the pace stepped up. Their finals pedigree gives them hope tonight and they are still attracting support from tipsters questioning whether North Queensland are the real deal.

The Cowboys, along with Melbourne, were the eye-catching team of week one. Brisbane aren't as bad as many people are making out in hindsight but just couldn't hold back the Northern tide once it began rolling. There are very few weakness in this Cowboys team and from the way Thurston has been talking this week, you get the feeling they are aware of their abilities. It simply comes down to whether they are good enough to deliver away from home and as the pressures builds.

My tip

North Queensland by 10.

NRL Season 2015

Round 1
Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
CBY 17 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
GCT 16 vs BRI 26 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MAN 16 vs CBR 29 Report Stats
NEW vs STG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 12 vs CRO 20 Report Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 6 vs WST 22 Report Stats
MEL 30 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
PEN 10 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 22 vs SYD 18 Report Stats
CRO 22 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
PAR 16 vs GCT 38 Report Stats
NZW 32 vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CBR 10 vs MEL 14 Report Stats
STG 31 vs CBY 6 Report Stats
Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SOU 12 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 28 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
STG 12 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
GCT 32 vs PEN 6 Report Stats
NQL 28 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
MEL 17 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
WST 22 vs CBR 30 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs PAR 28 Report Stats
Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
CRO 18 vs SOU 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CBY 14 vs WST 38 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
NZW 28 vs GCT 32 Report Stats
NEW 24 vs NQL 26 Report Stats
SYD 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
MEL 10 vs MAN 12 Stats
BRI 28 vs PAR 16 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
PEN 26 vs CRO 18 Stats
SOU 22 vs CBR 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 8 vs PEN 5 Report Stats
SYD 36 vs WST 4 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR 56 vs GCT 16 Stats
CRO 16 vs NZW 20 Stats
NQL 23 vs CBY 16 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 30 vs NEW 10 Stats
PAR 10 vs MEL 28 Stats
Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 16 vs STG 10 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CBY 10 vs SYD 24 Stats
NQL 31 vs BRI 20 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
PAR 13 vs NZW 17 Report Stats
GCT 22 vs CRO 23 Report Stats
MEL 16 vs SOU 12 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
STG 32 vs CBR 18 Report Stats
NEW 22 vs WST 12 Stats
Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
MAN 10 vs PEN 11 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
SOU 14 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
WST vs NQL 8 Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CBY 16:00GIO Stadium
Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
NEW vs BRI 19:00HS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
PEN vs PAR 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
MAN vs WST 19:45BO
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
STG vs SYD 19:00AS
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
MAN vs BRI 00:00TBA
WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
View All Fixtures
NRL Ladder 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D Pts
Melbourne Storm 10 7 3 0 16
St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 7 3 0 16
North Queensland Cowboys 11 8 3 0 16
Brisbane Broncos 10 7 3 0 14
Sydney Roosters 10 5 5 0 12
South Sydney Rabbitohs 11 6 5 0 12
Warriors 10 5 5 0 12
Penrith Panthers 10 5 5 0 12
View all
 
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