Cowboys ready to ambush Eagles - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cowboys ready to ambush Eagles

Laine Clark 29/04/2011 07:58:53 PM Comments (0)

The good news for the North Queensland Cowboys is that they have already equalled 2010's win aggregate.

The bad news is that they amassed just five victories last year - only avoiding the wooden spoon due to the salary cap-rorting Melbourne Storm.

But the fact North Queensland have racked that total up by the seventh round has convinced Cowboys backrower Scott Bolton the proud club are on the verge of finally ending three years in the NRL wilderness.

"The feeling's really good as you can imagine," he said of the fourth-placed Cowboys who have not been sighted in title calculations since the 2005 decider and 2007 grand final qualifier.

"It's something we haven't felt for a few years now.

"There's a bit of belief back, more than anything.

"It's a good feeling and I'm sure the boys who were here the last couple of years are feeling a lot better for it."

The great underachievers will have a better gauge of their progress after tackling Manly on Saturday night in Townsville.

Just like the Cowboys, Manly will arrive at Dairy Farmers Stadium with a 5-2 record and on a three-game winning run - and just one spot behind North Queensland on the NRL ladder in fifth.

Bolton did not have to look further than their "points conceded" column to explain their remarkable 2010 turnaround.

They have just 166 points against their name after seven games - the sixth best defensive record in the competition.

"We dedicated (a lot more of our) off-season to defence and I think it's something we needed," Bolton said.

"We're hanging in there for each other.

"It's something we spoke about a lot during the off-season and we've won games this year that we probably would have lost last year due to our defence."

The Cowboys are backing themselves to notch a fourth straight win at home - and sixth overall in eight rounds - against a Manly side without Brett Stewart (hamstring).

Young sensation Will Hopoate slots in at fullback while Michael Oldfield is brought onto the wing.

Manly have won three of their last four games against the Cowboys - including last year's infamous 24-20 victory in Townsville.

It was known more for North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston's expletive-riddled rant at an official after Willie Tonga's seemingly match-winning try was called back due to a forward pass.

Adding extra spice, ex-Sea Eagle forward Glenn Hall will line up against Manly for the first time since leaving Sydney's northern beaches in 2009.

Cowboys tackling machine Dallas Johnson admitted the Manly clash represented a timely gauge for his side's progress.

"They're a really talented side and they've been a really consistent side over a lot of years now," he said.

"It's a huge challenge and one we're looking forward to."

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