North Queensland Cowboys suffered a heart breaking last-minute loss to South Sydney Rabbitohs at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. In a game dominated by penalty goals it was almost fitting a penalty goal decided the match outcome.
Needing a win to get their stuttering season going North Queensland needed a good start, but conceding a try in the third minute to Rabbitohs’ prop George Burgess put the Cowboys on the back foot early. Despite losing Cody Walker to the sin bin for dissent the Rabbitohs defended their line and extended their lead to 10 points after penalty goals to halfback Adam Reynolds.
North Queensland got themselves on the scoreboard after Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan combined to put winger Antonio Winterstein over in the corner before both sides traded penalty goals to go into halftime with Souths leading 12-8.
The second half saw Thurston bring the Cowboys within two points with yet another penalty goal before Rabbitohs’ hooker Damien Cook surely secured himself the NSW No.9 jersey with another scintillating solo try to put Souths ahead 18-10.
The Cowboys wouldn’t go away though knowing their season was on the line Thurston again took another two points from a penalty goal before Thurston and Morgan again combined to send Winterstein over for another try in the corner leaving Thurston with the chance to square the game up with a kick from the sideline, Thurston did what Thurston does and nailed the kick.
North Queensland had all the momentum and after Adam Reynolds missed a field goal attempt for Souths the Cowboys took advantage of the seven tackle set as Morgan took a sneaky field goal to give North Queensland their first lead of the match.
But in a frantic last two minutes the Rabbitohs some how went from taking a line drop out to attempting a field goal on the final play and although Reynolds missed the attempt the Cowboys were ruled offside gifting the Rabbitohs an easy penalty goal attempt to steal victory and break the Townsville fans’ hearts.
Frantic Final Minutes
The game had been a tight affair throughout the first 78 and a half minutes and with the Cowboys’ season on the line you could feel the desperation and nervous energy bubbling to the surface. The Cowboys had just taken the lead and seemed to have iced the game by forcing a line drop with less than two minutes to go, but Souths had other plans and after taking a short drop out the Cowboys spilt the ball which was scooped up by Cody Walker who took off down field.
A few frantic plays followed including Dane Gagai taking a dummy half run down the sideline before Morgan made a try saving tackle on George Burgess on the Cowboys’ line, this set up a field goal attempt for Adam Reynolds to draw the game. But as the ball was played Cowboys’ hooker Jake Granville took off too early to put pressure on Reynolds and was ruled off side which gave Reynolds a simple penalty goal attempt to win the game.
Key Men Injured
After the game everyone was talking about the final minutes and the crazy events that transpired, but once the hype died down and each side assessed the damage from an intense battle the casualty ward showed both sides will be missing key men for some weeks.
Souths were dealt two big blows in the first half losing fullback Alex Johnston to a hamstring strain which will likely see him miss multiple weeks, whilst Sam Burgess could also see himself missing some games due to a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys were also dealt a cruel blow with co-captain Matt Scott suffering what seemed to be a MCL injury which would rule him out for a number of weeks and most likely the entire State of Origin series.
Rabbitohs Roll On
Although they weren’t at their best Anthony Saibold’s side found a way to win when it seemed all hope was gone, against a side who were desperate and who contain Johnathan Thurston it was a special effort from the Rabbitohs. After last week’s big win over competition favourites St. George Illawarra travelling up to Townsville to take on the Cowboys was always going to be a challenge.
Seibold will know his side weren’t at their best and still have plenty to work on but after losing Johnston and Burgess early and to win in such circumstances the feeling that something special is brewing in Redfern is getting stronger. The fact Souths still have plenty of improvement in them will also give Seibold and Souths’ fans hope that they’ll be there at the business end of the season.
Cowboys’ Season Over?
Sitting with three wins and eight losses following this heart breaking defeat the Cowboys’ season looks all but over, the players put all their effort into this match and to come up short yet again could spell the end of their finals dream. With State of Origin just around the corner things will only get harder for North Queensland as they will likely lose a handful of players for Maroons duty.
Paul Green has spoken about ushering in some new players and although he named an unchanged side on Tuesday he made some late changes to his final 17. Former Broncos prop Francis Molo made his club debut replacing Ethan Lowe whilst exciting youngster Enari Tuala made his debut from the bench. Tuala looked good in patches and although he would like his time again when broke into open field and put in a terrible chip kick he showed enough to warrant more opportunities in the NRL.
Tries: G. Burgess, Cook
Goals: Reynolds 6/6
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Winterstein 2
Goals: Thurston 5/5
Drop Goals: Morgan
Cowboys: 14 Te Marie Martin, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo, 15 Shaun Fensom, 16 Corey Jensen, 18 Francis Molo, 21 Enari Tuala
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis (c), 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Hymel Hunt, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Thomas Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess, 14 Cameron Murray, 15 Adam Doueihi, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Tevita Tatola