The last time the Vodafone Warriors met the Cowboys at Mount Smart Stadium last July ... Nathan Friend scored and the home side won 35-18. The veteran hooker is hoping to make his comeback tomorrow. Photo: Photosport.


Next to nothing separates the Vodafone Warriors and North Queensland in the win-loss register since they both entered Australian rugby leagues competition in 1995.


While the Aucklanders won seven of the first nine battles between the expansion clubs, the Cowboys have asserted themselves since the turn of the century to the point the equation is almost even (the Vodafone Warriors just ahead 16-15 in the 31 encounters between the two teams).


The records also show theyve found it challenging to win at the others home ground, the Vodafone Warriors ahead 12-5 in all meetings at Mount Smart Stadium and the Cowboys running 10-4 in Townsville (their venue now known as 1300SMILES Stadium). When they last met at Mount Smart in July last year, the Vodafone Warriors won 35-18.


The similarities in records extend to this season as the two teams prepare for their Easter Monday meeting at Mount Smart Stadium, the Vodafone Warriors first outing at their headquarters this season.


The Vodafone Warriors have started their 2013 disappointingly with three consecutive defeats while, after beating Canterbury-Bankstown in the first round, the Cowboys have lost heavily in their last two outings. They were beaten 32-10 at home by the Storm in round two and succumbed 6-34 to Newcastle on the road on Monday night. Conceding 66 points and scoring only 16 in those two matches, they sit just above the Vodafone Warriors on the points table.


While the Vodafone Warriors have scored just six tries in their first three matches, the Cowboys are only fractionally better with seven; likewise on defence, the Vodafone Warriors allowing 15 tries and the Cowboys 14.


It makes for an intriguing contest in the #ShowdownAtSundown, the last leg of the Mount Smart Easter Monday tripleheader kicking off at 6.00pm (preceded by the Auckland Vulcans taking on the Windsor Wolves in the New South Wales Cup at 1.35pm and the Vodafone Junior Warriors meeting the Cowboys in the NYC at 3.45pm.


As usual, the Cowboys bring the NRLs playmaker extraordinaire in Johnathan Thurston, a man who can unlock any defence. Whatever North Queenslands recent form, he will of course be the major threat.


Despite the two teams relative efforts this season so far, this is match which will showcase a lot of players who have figured in representative calculations in the past are in line to do so again at either State of Origin on international level in the coming weeks; aside from the Origin series, the Kangaroos and Kiwis clash in the Anzac Test in Canberra on April 19 and a Test between Samoa and Tonga on April 20.


Teams:

Vodafone Warriors: Kevin Locke; Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell, Dane Nielsen, Ngani Laumape; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Sam Rapira, Elijah Taylor, Ben Matulino; Ben Henry, Simon Mannering (c); Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Feleti Mateo, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Pita Godinet, Bill Tupou.

North Queensland: Matt Bowen; Ashley Graham, Brent Tate, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein; Johnathan Thurston (c), Michael Morgan; Matt Scott (c), Scott Moore, James Tamou; Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall; Dallas Johnson. Interchange: Anthony Mitchell, Ashton Sims, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo, Blake Leary.

Referees: Gavin Badger and Henry Perenara.