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North Queensland Cowboys v Melbourne Storm
Friday, August 4, 7:50pm (AEST) at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

The Storm are the clear front-runners to take out this year’s NRL premiership and it will take a good side to stop them. They currently have the best attack and defence in the competition, and are coming off a huge win over the Sea Eagles last week. Billy Slater returns for the Storm at fullback, while Ryley Jacks has been named to replaced the injured Cameron Munster at five-eighth. Many experts expected the Cowboys to roll over after Johnathan Thurston was ruled out for the season, but they’ve showed plenty of fight, winning four of their past five matches, and will take the Storm to the wire like they did in Melbourne back in Round 15.

The Storm have won 15 of the last 20 clashes with the Cowboys, though the last six in Townsville have been split evenly. The Storm and Cowboys clashed in Round 15, with both sides missing their Origin stars. Brodie Croft was the hero for the Storm as he kicked a field-goal to give the Storm a thrilling 23-22 victory. Storm centre Curtis Scott scored a double in the win.

North Queensland are fifth on the ladder with a 12-7 record. They had won four straight before losing to the Sydney Roosters 22-16 in Sydney last round. They have lost two straight just once this year, back in Rounds 6-7. The Cowboys have conceded an average of 13.3ppg over their last 10. Melbourne are the form team in the premiership, leading the way with a 15-4 record. They have won their last two and seven of their last nine and enter this off a 40-6 demolition of Manly. The Storm have both the best attack and best defence in the NRL.

Key Matchup
Lachlan Coote v Billy Slater: The obvious choice here would be Michael Morgan up against Cooper Cronk, but The Wolf is looking forward to the battle of the fullbacks. Coote had two try-assists in last week’s loss to the Roosters, but it’s clear he is doing his best to take the pressure off Morgan in generating the Cowboys’ attack. The return of Slater is a timely one, with Cameron Munster ruled out of this clash. Slater has recovered from the head knock he received courtesy of a swinging arm from Raiders forward Iosia Soliola. Slater has been sensational for the Storm this season and has 10 try-assists in his last seven matches.

Stats That Matter
– North Queensland are 14-5 ATS with a 13-6 under record while Melbourne are 10-9 ATS with a 10-9 over number.

– Melbourne have won 15 of the last 20 clashes with North Queensland, though the last six in Townsville have been split evenly.

– Six of the last eight matches have tallied 35 points or fewer.

– Melbourne are 15-12 ATS with a 19-8 under record after conceding 10 points or fewer.

– The Storm are 24-19 ATS with a 26-17 under record interstate since 2014.

– The Storm are 4-10 ATS interstate favoured by 4.5 or more points with teams since 2014 covering at just 43% in the situation.

– The Cowboys are 28-20 ATS at home since 2014 with a 3-2 ATS record as an outsider.

– The Cowboys have covered 8 of 11 as an outsider of six or more.

Final Thoughts
The Wolf is tipping the Storm to win a close one here, making the +5.5 start to the Cowboys the betting angle in this one. The loss of Cameron Munster is a blow for the Storm and The Cowboys showed plenty of fight against a strong Roosters side last week.

How It’s Shaping Up
Melbourne by 2

Best Bet
North Queensland +5.5 ($1.91)

Other Recommended Bets
Under 38 ($1.88)

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