A perfect day for rugby league produced a Saturday afternoon special in NRL’s annual Indigenous round in Canberra.
In front of 14,647 people in Canberra, the men from the north were looking to go back-to-back as the Green Machine hoped to snap a two-game losing streak. A few late changes for the Cowboys meant that Coen Hess and Scott Bolton missed out, leading to Mitch Dunn’s promotion to the starting right edge and Shaun Wright moving to the bench. It took eight minutes before the deadlock was broken as Jordan Kahu slotted a penalty to take an early lead. A few minutes later hooker Jake Granville scooted from dummy half around halfway, drawing the fullback and giving it off to centre Tom Opacic to score under the posts: a classic Granville play that would have Cowboy fans salivating.
Young-gun Bailey Simonsson was the next to go over thanks to a bullet ball from Jack Wighton, leaving him open on the wing. The Raiders were quick to strike again due to some lazy play from Cowboy Gideon Gela-Mosby, leaving a Sam Williams kick to sit up for winger Michael Oldfield. Matt Scott then left the field prematurely with a shoulder problem. The Cowboys regained the lead through some heads up play from captain Michael Morgan, taking on the blindside close to the line and giving it off to Justin O’Neill to score his eighth try in as many games. The Cowboys lead 14-10 at the break.
Josh Hodgson failed to return after halftime due to a suspected broken thumb and the Cowboys didn’t waste time – scoring in the 42nd minute. Morgan popped a perfect kick for Kyle Feldt to score in the corner and push the Cowboys out to 18-10. A Kahu penalty goal extended the lead to ten. Siliva Havili gave Raiders hope, pushing over from close range, but another penalty sealed the game for the Cowboys.
BACK-TO-BACK FOR COWBOYS
The Cowboys are riding again after their first back-to-back wins in 2019. The Cowboys forward pack have picked up momentum over the last month or so and continued the form in Canberra. Jason Taumalolo made a monstrous 251 metres, stamping his authority with Morgan controlling the game well with his boot. The Cowboys will be looking to make it a triple next week against the Titans at the Gold Coast.
THREE STRAIGHT LOSSES FOR RAIDERS
Two tough losses to the two premiership favourites may have played a part in their third consecutive loss. The Raiders are depleted, missing some key players in Rapana, Bateman and Leilua; losing Hodgson at halftime certainly didn’t help. There are a few things to work out for Ricky Stuart, but the Raiders will be eager to hit back against the Bulldogs next week.
GRANVILLE RETURNING TO 2015 FORM?
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville has been scintillating over the past few weeks and had a big game with 7 runs for 70 metres, a line-break, try assist and 39 tackles. The Cowboys cult hero is back: running the ball and using his speed around the ruck to the Cowboys’ benefit. Cowboys fans will be hoping this form can continue, but a call from Queensland may be on its way.
NO HODGSON MEANS TROUBLE
A suspected broken thumb may mean Canberra are left without star hooker Josh Hodgson for a lengthy period. Not only does Hodgson direct the team around the park, but the Raiders run a lot of their attack through the Englishman. It was noticeable that after he went off Canberra seemed to look a bit lost at times. Ricky will need to find another player to take over the hefty load of one of the best hookers in the game.
North Queensland Cowboys 22
Tries: Tom Opacic, Justin O’Neill, Kyle Feldt
Goals: Jordan Kahu 5/6
Drop Goals: N/A
Canberra Raiders 16
Tries: Bailey Simonsson, Michael Oldfield, Siliva Havili
Goals: Jarrod Croker 2/3
Drop Goals: N/A
Canberra Raiders: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Michael Oldfield, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Joe Tapine, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Corey Horsburgh
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Gideon Gela-Mosby 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 15. Mitchell Dunn 13. Jason Taumalolo . Interchange: 4. Kurt Baptiste 17. Francis Molo 19. Shane Wright 20. Josh McGuire