An inexperienced and under-strength North Queensland already looking to the future welcome a battle-hardened and equally injury-hit Manly side determined to stay in finals contention.
The Cowboys, now led by interim coach Josh Hannay and with a likely line-up featuring around 50 per cent of players with less than 30 NRL games to their name, host a Sea Eagles squad guided by premiership-winning mentor Des Hasler and featuring half-a-dozen NRL centurians including playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans and the bulk of their starting pack.
Both sides put in courageous performances against premiership front-runners in round 10 but only Manly came away with the points after holding off a Parramatta comeback despite further injuries to an already under-manned squad.
North Queensland never stopped trying but Penrith proved too classy, coming home over the top of a dogged Cowboys team buoyed by the efforts of rising star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and debutant Dejearn Asi.
Match: Cowboys v Sea Eagles
Round 11 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Cowboys: Murray Taulagi and Mitch Dunn are the new centre pairing replacing Connelly Lemuelu (cork) and Esan Marsters, while Ben Hampton joins the bench. Emry Pere was the other player to drop out of the match squad on game day after Lemuelu and Jordan McLean (calf) were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
The Cowboys have won six of their past eight games against the Sea Eagles.
Sea Eagles: Moses Suli (sternum) has been passed fit to play. Addin Fonua-Blake returns from suspension at prop, pushing Taniela Paseka to the bench and Corey Waddell to the reserves.
Corey Waddell replaces Sean Keppie on the Manly bench with Tevita Funa also dropping out of the 17 an hour before kick-off. Abbas Miski and Haumole Olakau'atu were omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off. The Sea Eagles have won their past two games in Townsville.
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-FidowFullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Brendan Elliot
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Jorge Taufua
Centre for Cowboys is number 14 Mitchell DunnCentre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Brad Parker
Centre for Cowboys is number 18 Murray TaulagiCentre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Moses Suli
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Justin O'NeillWinger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Reuben Garrick
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Daejarn AsiFive-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Cade Cust
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake CliffordHalfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Josh McGuireProp for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Sea Eagles is number 9 Danny Levi
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Francis MoloProp for Sea Eagles is number 10 Martin Taupau
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Shane Wright2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Joel Thompson
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Curtis Sironen
Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloLock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Tom GilbertInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 14 Lachlan Croker
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Gavin CooperInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Jack Gosiewski
Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Reuben CotterInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Taniela Paseka
Interchange for Cowboys is number 19 Ben HamptonInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 18 Corey Waddell
- Referee: Henry Perenara
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Touch Judge: Gavin Badger
- Video Referee: Bryan Norrie
- Senior Review Official: Jared Maxwell
Jason Taumalolo v Jake Trbojevic: The veteran locks play different roles but both lead from the front and are vital to their side's hopes of victory. Taumalolo, acknowledged as the game's best No.13, is one of the game's most devastating runners and currently tops the rankings for post-contact metres and is second for total run metres.
Trbojevic will tackle himself to a standstill (No.9 for tackles with 430) and serves as an unusual playmaking option for the Sea Eagles while also ranking third in the NRL for support play.
The Sea Eagles' win over Parramatta last week came despite finishing second best in a number of key statistical categories. Manly had just 43 per cent of possession and had almost 750 fewer running metres than the Eels. They also had nine fewer tackle breaks and almost 200 fewer kick-return metres.