5 THINGS WE LEARNED

COW­BOYS VS. STORM

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - COM­PILED BY JON TUXWORTH

1 RE­SILIENCE TO BE SORELY TESTED

AS IF be­ing with­out co- cap­tains Johnathan Thurston ( right) and Matt Scott for the year wasn’t bad enough, the Cow­boys look set to be with­out stand- in skip­per Gavin Cooper and winger An­to­nio Win­ter­stein for a stretch. Cooper suc­cumbed to a calf in­jury in the first minute of the game, while Win­ter­stein didn’t last much longer be­fore the ham­string com­plaint which has hin­dered him all year flared up again. It forced hulk­ing back rower Coen Hess to mark Queens­land Ori­gin star Will Cham­bers in the cen­tres, and Mel­bourne had plenty of suc­cess ex­ploit­ing that mis­match.

2 FI­NALS SPOT NOT SEALED YET

SOUTHS’ mirac­u­lous come- from- be­hind win over the Dragons gave the Cow­boys a bit of wel­come breath­ing space in the top eight race. De­spite the loss to the Storm, they will still fin­ish this round four points ahead of ninth af­ter St Ge­orge Illawarra’s late sea­son slump con­tin­ued in the early Fri­day match. With tough games ahead against Pen­rith ( away) and Cronulla ( home) the next two rounds the 2015 pre­miers will have to win at least one of those or their top eight hopes could be in some se­ri­ous jeop­ardy. If not they could face a ner­vous and high stakes fin­ish to the 2017 sea­son.

3 VUNIVALU BREAKS RECORD

THERE’S been some great Fi­jian wingers to grace the NRL, kick­started by Can­berra Raiders premier­ship star Noa Nadruku in the nineties and for­mer Bron­cos star and dual in­ter­na­tional Lote Tuqiri a lit­tle later down the line. But Storm young­ster Suliasi Vunivalu ( right) may re­tire as the best yet to grace the com­pe­ti­tion. The 22- year- old scored his 39th and 40th tries in just his se­cond sea­son of first grade, the most in his­tory by any player at this stage of their ca­reer. Given he will play out­side Cham­bers for a few more years yet in a cham­pion team, there’s no rea­son why he can’t con­tinue his im­pres­sive scor­ing rate long term.

4 HESS THE CEN­TRE OF AT­TEN­TION

HE’S 110kg and one of the most feared wreck­ing balls in the com­pe­ti­tion, but the Storm’s dev­as­tat­ing right edge must have been lick­ing their lips when the Cow­boys’ in­juries forced Hess to play at cen­tre. Cooper Cronk made it a fo­cus to give Cham­bers early ball at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and there was only go­ing to be one win­ner in this con­test. Hess must be the big­gest cen­tre seen in the NRL since Mal Meninga and af­ter some early jit­ters the Ma­roons rookie did well to make the mas­sive ad­just­ment from play­ing in the mid­dle of the park to try­ing to shut down Mel­bourne’s po­tent out­side backs.

5 MILE­STONE NIGHT FOR COOTE

COW­BOYS cus­to­dian Lach­lan Coote per­haps didn’t get the recog­ni­tion he de­served this week af­ter he notched up 150 NRL games against Mel­bourne. He cer­tainly hasn’t had an easy road to the mile­stone, with the Cow­boys fan favourite hav­ing bat­tled some in­jury trou­bles at for­mer club Pen­rith. He also suf­fered a sea­son- end­ing knee in­jury at the 2014 Auck­land Nines. He is one of the most im­por­tant Cow­boys play­ers in at­tack with­out Thurston, and his sweep­ing plays off Michael Mor­gan have been very dan­ger­ous the past two weeks.

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