HE'S OVER: Justin O'Neill of the Cowboys scores a try against the Warriors last month.
HE'S OVER: Justin O'Neill of the Cowboys scores a try against the Warriors last month. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Cowboys won't be doing any favours for Titans

NRL: Titans coach Neil Henry has declared halfback Ash Taylor a certain starter for tomorrow's season-defining clash with North Queensland in Townsville.

The Cowboys are confident Johnathan Thurston will also play after being sent home through the week and put on antibiotics for a bout of suspected tonsillitis that left him feeling "flat”.

Taylor (ankle) and fullback Jarryd Hayne (calf) - two players with the brilliance and skills to influence the outcome - have been under medical care since last weekend's one-point loss to Penrith.

For the Titans the task is simple: win and they make the finals.

But if, as the experts are tipping, the defending NRL premiers win and hold on to fourth place, and the Wests Tigers spring an upset over Canberra on Sunday, it will be all over for the Gold Coast.

North Queensland is 10-1 at home this season but the Titans are quietly confident they can cause an upset if they play out the 80 minutes and bring their best game north.

The Cowboys' Queensland Origin centre Justin O'Neill said it would be great if all three Queensland sides made the finals but stressed the Titans would not be getting any favours in Townsville.

"It's been a goal of ours to finish in the top four and we've put ourselves in a position to do that this weekend against the Titans,” he said. "Whether we make it, I guess, is up to us.

"Everything steps up a notch this week and we are going to have to do that and make the necessary adjustments to our game, our intensity and execution of the things we do.”

North Queensland has come out the other side of a recent vulnerable period where it dropped games to the Storm, Roosters and Tigers before wins over the Warriors and Bulldogs.

O'Neill said the players never lost the belief in what they could achieve during the mini-slump, which he admitted dented the confidence of a few players.

"I think the fire in our belly has definitely returned after our last few games,” he said.

"The hunger was lacking for a little while but it didn't take too long to find it and turn things around quickly and get the confidence and morale back in the team.”

Matt Scott (back) will be a big loss in the middle for the Cowboys.


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