After upsetting the Wests Tigers 34-30 in their first win of the season, the North Queensland Cowboys will be jumping at the chance to make it back to back wins when they host the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Jason Taumalolo has again been named to return after a month on the sidelines with a fractured hand, with the gamebreaking lock just missing out on a return last week.
With one appearance so far in season 2021, Taumalolo will be eager for some more game time after only amassing 73 metres in his 33 minute showing against the Penrith Panthers in the opening round.
The immediate departure of Josh McGuire, who signed a deal to move to the St George Illawarra Dragons earlier in the week, has forced Todd Payten to reshuffle his pack, with under fire Coen Hess (7 carries for 55 metres) named in the front row.
Veteran centre Justin O’Neill will also return to the side with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow set for a 3-4 week stint on the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury last week.
In a cruel blow Reuben Cotter (16 carries for 156 metres) is set to miss 4-6 weeks with a foot injury after an incredible 60 minute outing last start, missing just a single tackle in 52 attempts.
Meanwhile Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson will miss the all important clash after tearing his calf muscles in training earlier in the week.
British import turned NRL try scorer Luke Thompson (16 carries for 140 metres) will fill the in for Jackson at lock after an impressive round five performance, despite a 52-18 loss to the Melbourne Storm.
The reshuffle means Chris Smith will make his season debut off the bench, as the Bulldogs chase an all important first win of the season.
The Cowboys spoiled the party at Leichardt in their last start, jumping out to a 28-6 halftime lead in the club’s most complete 40 minute performance of the season.
With almost every stat going against them, the Cowboys managed to just hold on for victory, totalling 14 errors and missing 31 tackles for the match.
New halves partners Scott Drinkwater (one try and two try assists) and Ben Hampton (351 kicking metres) get another chance to organise the side’s attack as they come up against a Bulldogs side leaking points.
The Bulldogs showed promise at times in their last start but found themselves on the wrong end of some incredible individual efforts from the Storm lineup.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (24 carries for 205 metres) gets another chance at fullback, scoring a stellar four pointer last week when he latched on to the end of a Cooper Cronk esque kick from five-eight Jake Averillo ( two line breaks one try assist).
The last time these two sides battled it out, the Cowboys recorded at 24-16 victory in an empty ANZ Stadium.
Expect a return of the Jason Taumalolo and Francis Molo power play as the Cowboys big forwards try to return to form against a winless Bulldogs pack.