Cowboys, Knights headed for blockbuster - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cowboys, Knights headed for blockbuster

By Todd Balym 09/04/2006 07:05:51 PM Comments (0)

The stage is set for a top of the table blockbuster at Newcastle next Sunday between last year's NRL grand finalists North Queensland and wooden spooners the Knights.

Both teams flexed their premiership muscle in round five with resounding victories over two of the best teams in the competition.

The unbeaten Cowboys spanked premiers Wests Tigers 32-12 in a grand final re-match in Townsville on Friday while Newcastle belted pre-season title favourite St George Illawarra 54-6 on Saturday night.

Penrith joins them as the early season standouts after annihilating 2005 minor premier Parramatta 44-18 on Sunday despite losing halfback Craig Gower to a suspected fractured sternum in the first half.

While 2003 premiers the Panthers have performed solidly all year it has been the Knights and Cowboys who have captured the imagination, largely through the superb individual class shown by chief playmakers Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns.

The talented pair fought it out for the Dally M player of the year award in 2005 with Thurston prevailing in a close count.

Thurston has been the player of the competition so far in 2006, prompting calls for him to replace Brisbane's Darren Lockyer at five-eighth in the Australian team for the Anzac Test.

Johns admits he has become a huge fan of Thurston and can't wait to clash with him next week.

"I'm blown away by his (Thurston) performances this year," said Johns.

"He has really gone to another level.

"It's going to be a good test for all of us and I suppose for myself coming up against Johnathan Thurston, he's in rare touch at the moment.

"It's going to be sensational, probably the two form teams of the competition.

"They're my favourite team to watch, the way they play, they throw the ball around with Matty Bowen and Thurston and these players.

"And we've got blokes of our own, Milton Thaiday can create out of nothing. I think everyone in Newcastle will be there to watch next week."

Manly and the Bulldogs cemented their spots in the NRL top eight with comfortable yet unconvincing wins on Sunday.

The Sea Eagles switched off after halftime, beating New Zealand Warriors 22-8 in Auckland after having led 20-0 at the break.

In Canberra the Bulldogs became the first team in 2006 to win coming off the bye.

The Bulldogs led 28-0 thanks to a sloppy Canberra completion rate in the first hour, but once the Raiders settled they scored two tries, prompting a late scare before the Dogs held on for a 30-12 victory to move to fifth on the ladder.

Brisbane touched up South Sydney 30-12 on Saturday night but lost hooker Michael Ennis for the year with a suspected posterior cruciate ligament tear in his knee.

The Broncos will travel to Sydney for the Good Friday clash with the Roosters, who are sweating on injury news for captain Craig Fitzgibbon after Saturday night's 28-24 win over Cronulla.

Fitzgibbon injured his ankle in the hard fought victory and is only a 50-50 chance to play while centre Ryan Cross will miss over a month of football, also with an ankle complaint.

Reigning premiers Wests Tigers should on Monday learn the fate of superstar five-eighth Benji Marshall who dislocated his shoulder on Friday and could face season-ending surgery.

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