Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys Thursday, March 22, 8:05pm (AEDT) AAMI Park, Melbourne
We will have a rematch of last year’s grand final to kick off NRL Round 3 when the Melbourne Storm host the North Queensland Cowboys at AAMI Park. The Cowboys made a giant-killing run from 8th spot in last year’s final series before meeting their match in the big one, going down to the Storm by 34-6. The Storm will be looking to bounce back after their shock loss to the Tigers last week in Billy Slater’s 300th NRL, while the Cowboys are also coming off a loss, going down to the Broncos in a hard-fought affair at Suncorp Stadium. The Cowboys could welcome back Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote for this clash, while Storm backrower, Felise Kaufusi is set to miss another week due to a hamstring injury. Cowboys prop, Jordan McLean will take on his former club for the first time.
FormMelbourne opened their season with a comfortable win against the Bulldogs in Perth before going down 10-8 to the Tigers at home in a major surprise. They are 1-1 ATS and 1-1 over-under. They rank Top 4 in both defence and scoring. North Queensland ground out a 20-14 win against Cronulla in their season opener before going down 24-20 to Brisbane in an epic clash at Suncorp. The Cowboys are 1-1 ATS with a 1-1 over-under record.
Key MatchupBrodie Croft v Johnathan Thurston: We have a real case of master v apprentice here. Thurston is one of the greats of the game and will be a future immortal, while Croft is the young talent on the rise, trying to fill the boots of Cooper Cronk. Croft hasn’t been able to set up too much in the opening two rounds of the NRL season and will be hoping he can find a way to replicate his outstanding performance in the World Club Challenge. Thurston polled two Dally M points in last week’s loss to the Broncos. He set up three tries and it could have been four if not for the goalpost stopping Scott Bolton from crashing over the line. This will be a great learning curve for Croft and The Wolf is backing him to stand up in this big encounter.
Stats That Matter– Melbourne have won 17 of their last 22 against North Queensland including the last six. – Only one of the last five has been decided by less than six points. – The teams met in the Grand Final last year with the Storm winning 34-6. – The Storm hold a 4-2 all-time advantage at AAMI Park. – Six of the last nine matches have totalled less than 34 points though four of the six meetings at AAMI have totalled over 36. – The Storm are 17-5 off a loss since 2015 while they are 9-1 with an 8-2 ATS record at AAMI off a loss. – The under is 24-15 at AAMI Park over the last four seasons. – Melbourne are 6-4 ATS with a 7-3 under when favoured by six points or fewer. – The under is 16-5 at AAMI after the Storm have conceded 14 or fewer while they are 8-13 ATS in the same situation. – The Cowboys are 24-15 ATS interstate since 2015, covering 10 of the last 14. – North Queensland have covered six of their last nine interstate off a loss. – North Queensland are 21-12 ATS interstate off a loss.
Final ThoughtsThe Wolf is happy to back the unders into the Storm here. Six of the last nine matches between the Storm and Cowboys have totalled less than 34 points, while the Storm have won six straight over the Cowboys. The under is also 16-5 at AAMI after the Storm have conceded 14 or fewer the week before.
How It’s Shaping UpMelbourne by 2
Recommended BetsBest: Under 36.5 ($1.88) Value: Melbourne & Under 36.5 ($3.15) First Tryscorer: Josh Addo-Carr