In the start of the ‘post-Thurston’ era for the Cowboys, they come up against a Dragons outfit with a new looking spine, this Saturday night at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville.
Rain has continued to batter the Eastern coast of Australia, but it didn’t stop Townsville from turning out for a fantastic night for the final match of round one’s Super Saturday. And the home fans certainly would have left with optimism towards the season after their teams dominant 24-12 win over the Dragons. Early on, things looked tense for the home side, with the advantage-and first points-going the way of the Dragons, through Euan Aitken. But some telling mistakes from the Dragons, gave the Cowboys far too many opportunities. And it wasn’t until the introduction of John Asiata that the Cowboys were able to turn that pressure into points. With wingers Javid Bowen and Nene MacDonald crossing out wide just before halftime, sending the Cowboys into the break with a 6-4 lead.
The Dragons almost regained the lead at the start of the second half through a smart quick tap by Blake Lawrie. His clever effort was stopped by some impressive defence from fullback Jordan Kahu. And the defence from the Cowboys did not stop there. They held off the Dragons attempts to break their line and-as the momentum began to even out-the Cowboys defence lifted, in order to earn themselves the ball back. In the following set, John Asiata once again turned provider, when he broke clear of defenders and found Michael Morgan in support. A damaging break from Jason Taumalolo found Te Marie Martin over under the post, giving the Cowboys a comfortable 12-point lead with fifteen to go. The lock forward earned a valuable rest in the later stages of the half, after racking up more than 300 running metres. He was able to watch from the bench, as Michael Morgan helped close out the match. The Cowboys and Dragons both running in a late try each to close out the first Super Saturday of the year with a 24-12 result to the Cowboys.
Jason Taumalolo got through the usual mountain of work and it was no surprise that their momentum in the middle came off the back of some strong runs. He made a big break towards the end of the first half which led to the Cowboys opening try and busted them open again to set up the match sealing points. On top of that, he racked up over 300+ running metres.
IMPACT FROM THE BENCH
John Asiata provided exactly what the Cowboys needed off the bench and was a handy link man between the forwards and the backs. Before his injection into the match, the Cowboys were finding it difficult to make the Dragons pay for their mistakes. But Asiata was able to find several gaps in the Dragons defence and came up with a crucial break in the second half to put skipper Michael Morgan over.
DEFENCE ON SHOW
The Cowboys defence was great and lifted at the moment they needed the most. While the Dragons defence certainly needs to be commended for keeping them in the match despite all their mistakes. There certainly wasn’t the usual panic out wide from the Dragons backs, but if they don’t fix their handling, then more fluent attacking sides will put them to the sword.
THE DRAGONS REJIGGED SPINE
It is easy to be critical of the Dragons spine but there is certainly some positive signs once they begin to gel. But the Dragons’ fans will certainly be hoping for a greater improvement from what is an experienced spine. And the ploy to bring Matt Dufty off the bench needs to be used at smarter times throughout the contest, not with ten minutes to go and the match appearing all but over.
North Queensland Cowboys 24
Tries: Javid Bowen, Nene McDonald, Michael Morgan, Te Marie Martin, Justin O’Neill
Goals: Jordan Kahu 2/4, Te Marie Martin 0/1
St George Illawarra Dragons 12
Tries: Euan Aitken, Jordan Pereira
Goals: Gareth Widdop 2/2
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Nene MacDonald 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Javid Bowen 6. Te Marie Martin 7. Michael Morgan (c) 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 15. Josh McGuire 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 11. Gavin Cooper 15. John Asiata 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Francis Molo
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1. Gareth Widdop (c) 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Tim Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Simms 13. Tyson Frizell Interchange: 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Matt Dufty 16. Blake Lawrie 17. Luciano Leilua