The North Queensland Cowboys up against the Cronulla Sharks were victorious 20-14 in what was a 300th game milestone for Johnathan Thurston in front of a packed Friday night crowd at 1300SMILES Stadium.
A scrappy night for both sides with three tries run in by the Cowboys within the first half. The Sharks through soft penalties and errors allowed them to stay in the match up until the 75th minute when the North Queensland halfback found his backrower in Gavin Cooper to score a late try a put the game out of reach for a lacklustre 2016 premiers outfit 20-14 in the opening round of the season.
COWBOYS CLINCH WIN LATE
The Friday night clash between these two sides was back and forth with 30 errors combined which allowed after a strong start from the home side going up 14-8 at the half. The Sharks intercepted through Ricky Leutele and sprinted down field to link with bench rake James Segeyaro to score a try against the run of play and make it 16-14 with 12 minutes left in the match. The key moment of the game moments after the Sharks try was a beautiful grubber kick from JT to find his partner in crime Gavin Cooper on the try line diving for a four pointer and clinching the match 20-14.
ILL-DISCIPLINED SHARKS SUFFER
The Cronulla side was brave and right in the game until the death but it was a lack of ball control and ill-discipline without it that cost the Sharks side a win. The away side missed 38 tackles as well as a below par completion rate which inevitably cost them and let the Cowboys capitalise on field possession and mount pressure to come away winners with a late try.
The 300th game milestone match for JT was a memorable win with touches or brilliance and things to work on for the weeks to come. The Cowboys playmaker was not having a great night with conversions missing three with one close in front of the posts which left the door open for Cronulla to nearly level the scores late. The first game for Thurston back in the NRL was testing for him without halves partner Michael Morgan out with a groin injury, his potency in attack and decision-making off the back of his forwards allowed him to come up with two try assists and the match winning play in the dying moments of the match as we all have come to love over his career.
DEBUT KATOA INJURED
The Sharks debutant Sione Katoa was awarded with a start in the first match of the season for the side ahead of the likes of Aaron Gray and Edrick Lee on the wing however with a heavily intensive and error riddled match the winger had limited oppurtunites to shine in attack. The rookie was hit with a tackle that caught him high and was taken off the field in the 50th minute with a broken jaw ending his first game for the club.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“Shoulder pulled up well and gives me confidence going forward in the year.” – Johnathan Thurston
“Great to be back on the field with the boys and get the win against quality opposition.” – Matt Scott
“A bit to work on but the effort was there and the game was there to win but the errors earlier need to be tidied up so we can win those matches.” – Shane Flanagan
Tries: Justin O’Neill, Coen Hess, Kyle Feldt, Gavin Cooper
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/5
Tries: Josh Dugan, James Segeyaro
Goals: Chad Townsend 3/3
Cowboys: 1. Ben Hampton, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Javid Bowen, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 14. Te Maire Martin, 7. Johnathan Thurston ©, 8. Matt Scott ©, 9. Jake Granville, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 15. Coen Hess, 16. Scott Bolton, 17. John Asiata, 18. Corey Jensen.
Sharks team: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Sione Katoa, 6 Matthew Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matthew Prior, 18 Kurt Capewell, 12 Wade Graham, 14 Jayson Bukuya. Interchange: 13 Paul Gallen (c), 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17 Joseph Paulo.
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