Roosters v Cowboys preview - 2017 Round 21

Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys Saturday 7:30pm at Allianz Stadium

Top four contenders clash at Allianz

The Roosters head into Saturday night's battle with the Cowboys in second position, yet their chances of claiming victory have suffered a severe hit with Trent Robinson's men still without Boyd Cordner, Michael Gordon and Jake Friend. It was not a problem last week, however, as the Roosters stormed home to claim a comfortable 28-4 win over the lowly Knights. Their task this week, however, is a much tougher prospect, as they attempt to face a Cowboys side who seems to have grown an extra leg since the injury to halfback Jonathan Thurston. Therefore, it will be up to halves Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce to guide their side to victory when considering the wealth of experience they currently have sitting on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have been in excellent form as of late, having won 6 of their past 7 matches. However, Paul Green's men face a stern run home, which begins with this week's clash against the second placed Roosters. The Cowboys have not been without disruption this week either, with interchange forward Shaun Fensom ruled out with a rib injury. Fensom is set to be replaced by young prop Braden Uele, who will make his debut off the bench in Saturday night's game.

Last meeting: Round 23 2016 - Roosters 22 Cowboys 10

Who to watch: Look out for a strong performance from fullback Connor Watson, who signed a three-year deal during the week with the Newcastle Knights. Watson was in fine form in last week's win over his future teammates, running 144 metres, scoring a try and making two line breaks in an impressive outing. He comes up against one of the more experienced fullbacks in the competition this week in the form of Lachlan Coote, yet he has certainly shown that he can match his opposite number in attack.

A big performance from the barnstorming Jason Taumalolo could single-handedly decide this one. Taumalolo has averaged running 203 metres a game and has consequently established himself as the form lock of the competition. Against a strong Roosters pack, Taumalolo's work up front will be crucial in allowing the chance for the likes of Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin to weave their magic.

The favourite: With home ground advantage, the Roosters are slightly favoured to take this one.

My tip: A very tough one to pick. There will not be many points in this one, yet look for the Roosters to prevail off the back of a dominant performance from halves pairing Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce. Roosters by 2.

1. Connor Watson 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Victor Radley 10. Dylan Napa 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Isaac Liu 14. Zane Tetevano 15. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Mitchell Cornish

1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O'Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Michael Morgan 8. John Asiata 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Coen Hess 17. Corey Jensen 18. Braeden Uele

Referees: Grant Atkins, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Dave Ryan; Video Referees: Luke Patten, Bernard Sutton;

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