Cowboys v Dragons: Payten rests Origin stars; McGuire in for Sims

The Dragons head to Townsville refreshed after a bye but will need to be at their absolute best to topple the high-flying Cowboys.

Sitting third on the ladder with a differential of +160, Todd Payten's men have set themselves up perfectly for the demanding State of Origin period, which saw them go in against the Titans without four of their stars but still win comfortably.

A win for the Dragons would serve notice they deserve to be mentioned in the 'contenders' conversation and put a spring in their step ahead of two home games at WIN Stadium against the Rabbitohs and Raiders.

The Cowboys have already had more victories than their entire 2021 season and will have this one pencilled in for a 10th win of the year, all but ensuring they'll return to the finals for the first time since 2017.

The Rundown
Team news
Cowboys: Todd Payten has decided to rest Maroons reps Reuben Cotter and Jeremiah Nanai while Val Holmes remained in the squad on Thursday when it was cut to 19. Tom Dearden returns at five-eighth after missing Round 13 on Origin squad duty so Ben Hampton drops out. Should Holmes come into the starting side on game day, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow most likely shifts to the wing and Brendan Elliot would be the man to miss out.

Dragons: Tariq Sims is out and is replaced on the edge by Josh McGuire, while Ben Hunt is set to play less than 48 hours after his Origin performance for the Maroons. If he is a late scratching, however, Jayden Sullivan will likely come in at halfback with Jaydn Su'A then moving from the reserves to the bench.

Key match-up
Val Holmes v Zac Lomax: Two explosive attacking centres capable of turning the game in an instant. Holmes has been dynamic on the Cowboys' left side with 42 tackle breaks, six line breaks and four tries in 2022 while Lomax also four tries to go with 33 tackle breaks and five line breaks. Both possess slick passing skills and have laid on tries for outside men Murray Taulagi and Mikaele Ravalawa. Given any room to move they will make the opposition pay with their speed and stepping ability.

Stat Attack
Ben Hunt leads the NRL in line engagements with 125, always probing and keeping middle forwards honest with his quick feet and eye for a gap. Wests Tigers halfback Jackson Hastings sits second with 102 line engagements from just nine games and the leading Cowboy is Chad Townsend with 77.




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