The North Queensland Cowboys have won at the death in a scrappy affair at 1300SMILES Stadium, a late try sealing it to give them a 20-18 win over the Newcastle Knights on Friday night
The Knights had all the ball early and were the first to score in the 3rd minute when Mitchell Pearce put Lachlan Fitzgibbon through a hole to make it 6-0. It was Aidan Guerra’s turn six minutes later as he strolled through some awful defence to score untouched to extend the lead to 12. The Cowboys were able to hit back after Danny Levi was sent to the sin bin, making the most of the man advantage as Johnathan Thurston sent an unmarked Justin O’Neill over in the corner in the 18th minute. The Knights would extend their lead, however, as Fitzgibbon crashed over to give the Knights a 18-6 lead at the break.
The Cowboys were the first to score in the second half when Thurston put Coen Hess over in the 49th minute, and then Thurston himself scored just three minutes later when he scooped up an O’Neill grubber to get the deficit back to two points. Both teams had opportunities to seal it late but it was Thurston again to put Te Maire Martin through a hole who then passed it back on the inside to Gavin Cooper to score the match winner.
JT MASTERCLASS PROVES THE DIFFERENCE
It was looking like it could be a long night for the Cowboys early on, but when they managed to get some ball Johnathan Thurston took control. He played a hand in all four of the Cowboys’ tries, scoring one, in a vintage performance for the legendary halfback.
He finished the night with a try, two try assists and three line break assists. It hasn’t been the ending to his career that Thurston deserves, but this win might give himself and his team confidence to finish the season on a high.
POOR SECOND HALF COSTS KNIGHTS
It was a tale of two halves for the Knights. The first half they were nearly unstoppable, scoring two tries in the first 10 minutes en route to a 10 point lead at the break. However, they took their foot off the pedal in the second half and the Cowboys were able to run them down.
It was a missed opportunity for the Knights as they searched for three straight wins. They never looked dangerous in attack after the hot start and poor game management let them down late in the game.
POOR DISCIPLINE LETS DOWN BOTH TEAMS
It was an exciting finish but for the most part it was a very scrappy match. Errors and penalties plagued both teams’ games as neither team could get on top for lengthy periods.
There were 24 total errors (14 from Cowboys, 10 from Knights) and 15 penalties across the 80 minutes in a performance that neither coach would be particularly proud of. Both teams are out of finals contention but will be hoping for better discipline in their remaining games.
FITZGIBBON EMERGING AS A PREMIER FORWARD
His team didn’t get the result, but Knights backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon can hold his head high after another strong performance. He finished the night with two tries off of two line breaks, and made a game-high 43 tackles.
Fitzgibbon is a young forward with a bright future, emerging as one of the best line-runners in the competition. He’s the Knights’ leading try scorer this season and is almost impossible to stop close to the line. He’s a player to keep an eye on as he continues to develop and improve.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 20
Tries: Justin O’Neill, Coen Hess, Johnathan Thurston, Gavin Cooper
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/4
Drop Goals: n/a
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 18
Tries: Lachlan Fitzgibbon (2), Aidan Guerra
Goals: Ken Sio 3/4
Drop Goals: n/a
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Te Maire Martin, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Justin O’Neill, 6 Jake Clifford, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 John Asiata, 9 Jake Granville, 21 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 10 Scott Bolton, 14 Ben Hampton, 15 Shaun Fensom, 28 Matthew Scott
Newcastle Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Ken Sio, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Nathan Ross, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 20 Jack Cogger, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 13 Aidan Guerra Interchange: 14 Jamie Buhrer, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Josh King, 17 Herman Ese’ese