Four Pointers: St. George Illawarra Dragons 28 North Queensland Cowboys 22
It was quite a match to wrap up Super Saturday when the St. George Illawarra Dragons hosted the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium in Wollongong. The Dragons ran havoc in the first half, and then the momentum completely switched during the second forty when the Cowboys piled on the points, despite falling just short in the end. The Cowboys missed Johnathan Thurston, though Morgan stepped up in the halves. The Dragons’ Widdop was once again instrumental to their win. It was an entertaining match, leaving all fans on the edge of their seat.
Momentum is the Key
Ultimately, the match could have gone either way, despite the majority of the support headed the way of the Dragons, given that the Cowboys had so many players out through injury. The first half was the Dragons, and the Dragons only. The Cowboys managed to score one try, but other than that, it was the home team who completely dominated the field, piling on 28 points within the half. They were dominant in attack and defence, scoring on every opportunity they had on the Cowboys’ line, building a lot of pressure on their opposition. At the half time break not many people (if any) saw a Cowboys comeback. At the commencement of the second half, it was ALL Cowboys. Their completion rate had improved significantly, their attack was incredible and their defence was vastly different from that in the first half – especially when defending their line. They ripped the game open and played the football they wanted to play, however fell just short in the end, scoring four tries to the Dragons’ five. The way the game played out, it’s evident that momentum is more often than not crucial, and can change the outcome of a game. It swung significantly at the break, and was ultimately defining for the Cowboys’ comeback.
Right-Hand Side Disappointed Cowboys
Despite the fantastic comeback, and keeping the Dragons to zero during the second half, the right-hand edge defence from the visitors was a worry, given most of the Dragons’ points came from that side. The Dragons ripped Justin O’Neill and Kyle Feldt apart throughout the first 40 minutes, scoring four tries on that edge. Paul McGregor’s side took serious advantage of this, running down their left side whenever possible, capitalising and scoring plenty of points that eventually got them the win. Cowboys’ coach Paul Green addressed this in the press conference, defending his right-hand side. He was obviously disappointed with the lack of defensive effort from that side, however continued to say that it had been disrupted this season. “To be fair, it’s been a little bit disrupted too. Justin [O’Neill] just come back tonight and [Ethan] Lowe has been there and now [Coen] Hess is there. [Feldt’s] not playing as well as he can,” told the press. He admitted that their right-edge defence has always been strong, however the combinations were never there, causing a rusty performance. Now that O’Neill is back, surely the combination will progressively get better and the defence on the Cowboys’ right-hand edge will tighten up again within the next few weeks.
Dragons Prove Their Worth
It was a closer match than McGregor and the Dragons would have hoped, however despite the comeback of the Cowboys, the Dragons proved themselves worthy of a table-topping position. While it was evident that they began to worry, they still managed to stay composed and win the game by only six points. Obviously their first half performance was incredible, and is what won them the match. This is what we’ve seen from the Dragons all season as they continue to prove the pre-season doubters wrong. However it was also in the second half where they showed their strength as a team, managing to keep the Cowboys’ from winning the match. They conceded more points than anyone would have liked to, and McGregor will have had a lot to say about their match as it was no where near perfect, but there is still a lot to smile and say about how they performed and kept their composure throughout the eighty minutes. It was a gutsy win from the Dragons in Wollongong, and they are undoubtedly making a step in the right direction.
Spines are Essential
It’s said time and time again, that the spine of the team is incredibly important to the success and/or failure of the side. The Cowboys were missing half of theirs, with Johnathan Thurston and Lachlan Coote out due to injury. That left the Cowboys with just Michael Morgan at five-eighth, and Blake Leary. Both players stood up in their roles, more so Morgan. He dominated the second half, leading the way for his side, despite a couple of errors. He scored the third try, running through a scattered Dragons’ defensive line. The Cowboys’ spine stepped up in the second half, and the Dragon’s in the first. The result of the game left fans wondering if key element to the Cowboys’ spine, Thurston would have made much difference to the result. In the press conference, Paul Green admitted that Thurston wouldn’t have made any difference to the performance in the first half, however said nothing of the second half performance. In the second forty, they played the game that they wanted to, however it’s thought that the Cowboys could have had an extra spark and possibly won the game if the star halfback was there. The spines in each side were essential, with everyone in that of the Dragons stood up as they always do, directing them around the field and adding to their success.
St. George Illawarra Dragons
Tries: Nene Macdonald, Timoteo Lafai 2, Kurt Mann, Gareth Widdop
Goals: Gareth Widdop 4
North Queensland Cowboys
Tries: Gideon Gela-Mosby, Ben Spina, Michael Morgan, Scott Bolton
Goals: Kyle Feldt 3