North Queensland Cowboys 16 (Antonio Winterstein, Michael Morgan, Kyle Feldt tries; Johanthan Thurston 2 goals)
New Zealand Warriors 20 (Glen Fisiiahi 2, Konrad Hurrell, Sione Lousi tries; Shaun Johnson 2 goals)
New Zealand Warriors are off the mark in the National Rugby League competition after upsetting North Queensland 20-16 at 1300 Smiles Stadium.
Kyle Feldt gave the Cowboys a fighting chance by crossing with seven minutes remaining, to trail by four points. In a last desperate effort nearing full-time Feldt almost pulled off the impossible, away down the touchline only to step into touch before scoring what would have been the equaliser.
New Zealand not only overcame the sticky Townsville conditions, but broke a twelve year drought at the venue.
Glen Fisiiahi was first to score after eight minutes and has his double controversially on seventeen minutes when it appeared he knocked the ball forward in regathering to score. The decision being confirmed a try by the video referees.
Antonio Winterstein made up for a missed opportunity only minutes before he crossed for the Cowboy’s first try on twenty-six minutes. The home side went into the sheds two points behind at half-time.
Konrad Hurrell powered his way over the line to extended the Warriors lead and when Sione Lousi scored from close range on the hour, North Queensland faced an uphill battle to stay in the game.
Michael Morgan’s strike fifteen minutes from time along with Feldt’s try in the final ten minutes wasn’t enough to prevent a second consecutive loss for the Cowboys.
North Queensland did enough to suggest they deserved victory, with Kane Linnett and Tariq Sims exposing New Zealand up the middle of the park on several occasions. But it was another quiet night from Thurston, unable to dominate against the big Warriors pack who defended stoutly in victory. There will be more questions as to whether Michael Morgan is North Queensland’s answer at fullback. Zac Santo is waiting in the wings after bursting onto the scene at the successful Auckland Nines campaign.
The brutal fact for Cowboys fans is that it’s been a poor start to the season. Getting out of jail against Canberra, losing in Brisbane and now beaten by a Warriors side that not many experts predicted would be competitive in this game. Paul Green faces more challenges in preparing for next weekend’s visit to the Gold Coast.
New Zealand Warriors coach Matt Elliott will be delighted in taking the two points from Townsville. It’s still work in progress as switched on teams will expose the Warriors with quick play the balls that will tire their big forward pack. Sam Tomkins continues to learn the game at NRL level and a fit, in form Fisiiahi will be one of the Warriors best attacking weapons in open space. They face Wests Tigers at Westpac Stadium in Wellington next Saturday.