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North Queensland Cowboys v Penrith Panthers
Saturday, June 24, 3pm (AEST), 1300Smiles Stadium, Townsville

The Cowboys and Panthers will both be desperate to pick up a valuable two competition points and in the process cement their spot within the Top 8. The Cowboys sit in 7th on 18 points, while the Panthers round out the Top 8 in 8th spot on 16 points, just ahead of the Eels due to a superior for-and-against. The Cowboys hopes will rest on the ability of their Origin stars to back-up, none bigger than Johnathan Thurston. Along with Thurston, Michael Morgan, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess will all represent Queensland on Wednesday night. Keep an eye on team news during the week as Thurston’s presence will have a big bearing on the outcome of this clash.

The Cowboys have won 6 of their last 7 against Penrith and have won the last four encounters in Townsville.

North Queensland remain in the Top 8 with an 8-6 record and they were very unlucky to miss out against Melbourne when going down in golden point. The Cowboys have won three of their last five and have scored 20-plus in six of their last eight. North Queensland have conceded 20-plus in two of their last seven. Penrith are on the outside of the Top 8 looking in with a 6-7 record. The Panthers won just two of their first nine matches but have put together four on end, though all four wins have come against teams outside the Top 8. Penrith have conceded at least 18 in eight of their last nine matches. The Panthers have averaged 32 points per game over their last four.

Key Matchup
Johnathan Thurston v Matt Moylan. Thurston was instrumental in the Cowboys 32-6 win over the Eels in Round 14, scoring a try and setting up three others. State of Origin is always a disruptive time for clubs like the Cowboys and it’s imperative that Thurston backs-up and guides the Cowboys to a win against a Panthers side with no Origin representatives. Moylan has been outstanding since making the move to the No.6 jersey and will want a big performance against Thurston after he was left out of the NSW side for this year’s series. Moylan was one of the heroes in the Panthers “Houdini” win against the Raiders in Round 14, setting up two tries and scoring on of his own. The more Moylan can get his hands on the ball, the better it will be for the Panthers.

Stats That Matter

– North Queensland are 10-4 ATS with a 7-7 total number while Penrith are 5-8 ATS with a 7-6 under record.
– The Cowboys have won 6 of their last 7 against Penrith and have scored 20-plus in eight straight games.
– North Queensland have won the last four encounters in Townsville.
– Nine of the last 10 matches have all topped 40 points.
– This is the Cowboys’ first home day game in over a decade.
– The Cowboys have covered just 4 of their last 12 at home when favoured by 8 points or fewer though they have covered 7 of their last 9 at home after scoring 22-plus.
– The Panthers have covered just 6 of their last 17 interstate games.
– Penrith are 7-12 ATS away from home getting fewer than six points.
– The Panthers have covered just 8 of their last 22 on the road after conceding 20 points.

Final Thoughts
The Wolf is backing the Cowboys as long as Thurston lines up despite picking up what seemed to be a shoulder injury in Origin. The Panthers have struggled against the Cowboys in recent times and haven’t won in Townsville since 2009. There should be plenty of points in this one and the Cowboys to win by a converted try on the back of yet another Thurston masterclass.

How It’s Shaping Up
North Queensland by 6

Best Bet
North Queensland 1-12 ($3)

Other Recommended Bets
Over 40.5 ($1.88)

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