New Zealand Warriors v North Queensland Cowboys Saturday, April 7, 5:30pm (AEST) Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
The Warriors have shocked many critics, with their undefeated start to the season and will be boosted by the timely returns of Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering for this mouth-watering contest against the Cowboys. North Queensland were embarrassed by a Panthers side missing Nathan Cleary last week and will have a point to prove in Auckland this weekend. Cowboys prop Jordan McLean suffered a foot injury in the loss to the Panthers and will miss the next three months.
FormNew Zealand are remarkably undefeated through four weeks as they ride their best ever start to a season. They stunned the Roosters in Sydney last week even with Shaun Johnson a late withdrawal, winning 30-6. The Warriors are second on the ladder with the third best attack and fourth ranked defence. North Queensland have been dreadfully disappointing this year, winning their season opener against Cronulla before a three-run losing streak that culminated in a heavy home defeat to an understrength Penrith team. The Cowboys are 13th on the ladder with the 11thranked attack and defence.
Key MatchupShaun Johnson v Johnathan Thurston: Shaun Johnson is expected to make his return from a groin strain after missing last week’s big win over the Roosters. He’ll have a point to prove after his understudy Mason Lino carved up the Roosters last week. The great Johnathan Thurston was very quiet by his lofty standards in last week’s loss to the Panthers. You can never write off a champion, and it will be up to Thurston to get the Cowboys out of this early season slump.
Stats That Matter– New Zealand are 4-0 ATS with a 3-1 under record while North Queensland are 1-3 ATS with a 2-2 total record. – The Cowboys have won four straight against the Warriors as well as 15 of the last 23 meetings. – The Warriors have won four of the last five matches at Mt Smart though the Cowboys posted a 50-16 win in the last match at the ground. – New Zealand have covered six of their last nine at Mt Smart. – Since 2015 the Warriors are 3-12 ATS at Mt Smart at night with a 10-5 over record. – The Warriors have covered 4 of their last 5 off a win of 20 or more. – New Zealand are 2-7 ATS since 2008 on a four-game win streak. – The Cowboys are 27-20 ATS on the road since 2015 while they are 12-8 ATS as a road favourite. – The over is 7-2 when a road team off a double digit loss.
Final ThoughtsThe Wolf tipped the Cowboys to win the NRL Premiership before the season started and still has high hopes despite their slow start to the season. In saying that, The Wolf has been guilty of not respecting the Warriors and has been left with egg on his face. Overs is the betting angle that the Wolf wants to play here. Since 2015, the Warriors have a 10-5 over record at Mt Smart at night. The Warriors love to throw the ball around, while Thurston will want redemption after last week’s poor game. Overs, overs, overs!
How It’s Shaping UpNew Zealand by 4
Recommended BetsBest: Over 39.5 ($1.91) Value: New Zealand 1-12 ($3.20) First Tryscorer: Leivaha Pulu ($26)