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THE week’s NRL action kicks off Thursday night in Townsville as the third-placed Cowboys host the fourth-placed Bulldogs in a pivotal round 20 clash.
With just over a month of the regular season remaining and both teams locked on 24 points, a win has never been more important for either side.
Both are fresh off the bye, but the Cowboys suffered a shock loss to the Raiders last time out while the Bulldogs are unbeaten since round 14.
North Queensland co-captain Matt Scott believes his side is ready to get back on track after a State of Origin series that ravaged the Cowboys squad.
“We’d spoken a lot about getting through the Origin period and win some games without playing our best football,” Scott said.
“We’ve managed to do that. I don’t think we’ve played particularly well over the last three to five weeks, but we’ve got some wins and have a good place on the ladder. Now we regroup after Origin and concentrate on the run-in.”
“There are a lot of areas we have to improve in.”
Despite his side playing brilliantly across the entire Origin period, Bulldogs coach Des Hasler believes the league needs to look at revamping the series.
“I’m a massive fan of Origin, so I don’t want people to think I’m not a massive fan of Origin … it’s a great concept,” Hasler told Triple M radio.
“But I think at some stage they’ve got to … just to look [at it]. No other elite competition would allow their players to walk away from club games to participate. There is a lot of re-thinking.”
The game is undoubtedly the match of the round and will go a long way to shaping the outright betting markets heading into the latter stages of the competition.
North Queensland ($4.75) and Canterbury ($7.50) are two of the six teams in single figures to win the 2016 NRL Premiership at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match betting tips
Match winner: North Queensland – $1.40 at Sportsbet
First tryscorer: Javid Bowen – $9
A blockbuster match-up between third and fourth on the ladder awaits NRL fans on Thursday night.
North Queensland are at $1.25 to finish inside the top four this season, while the Bulldogs are at the $1.67 quote.
Canterbury are looking to extend their winning streak to five, while the North Queensland are aiming to get back on track after losing to Canberra last time out.
This will be just the second time in Canterbury’s history that they have played at the Townsville venue.
They lost their on sole visit to the 1300SMILES Stadium back in 2015.
The Cowboys have had the wood over the Bulldogs, winning three of their last four meetings.
North Queensland’s lineup was weakened throughout the Origin period, but now we should see them finally hitting their straps.
We are expecting the Cowboys to separate themselves from the bottom section of the top eight and close the gap on the ladder-leading Cronulla Sharks.
Betting promotions for Thursday night NRL
Thursday night’s critical clash is sure to draw plenty of money from punters, and Sportsbet has come to the party with a sensational promotion for their customers.
Put a head-to-head bet on the Cowboys vs. Bulldogs match and receive a 50% boost on your winnings, excluding your original stake, up to a maximum of $50 cash.
Would you rather use our tip as part of a round 20 NRL multi?
Place a five-leg multi or bigger and get your stake back in real cash up to $50 if you miss out by just one leg.
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