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2022 NRL Round 15, Sea Eagles 26 Cowboys 28 – Report

Elinya Chenery reviews the Friday night clash between the Sea Eagles and the Cowboys …

MATCHDAY RESULTS

SCOREBOARD

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 26
Tries: Christian Tuipulotu (8,48), Reuben Garrick (24), Lachlan Croker (61,64)
Goals: Reuben Garrick (25, 63, 65)

North Queensland Cowboys 28
Tries: Valentine Holmes (33, 75), Jeremiah Nanai (44), Reece Robson (72), Connelly Lemuelu (73)
Goals: Valentine Holmes (35, 45, 72, 74)

MATCH REPORT

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The early Friday night game at 4 Pines Park opened with a sense of de javu from last night’s Dragons and Rabbitohs match, with Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater dropping the ball off the kick off from Daly Cherry-Evans. Luckily for North Queensland, the ball was ruled by referee Gerard Sutton to have gone backwards, although it was clear to see the rattle this opening mishap sent through the Cowboys squad, along with the shake-up due to Reuben Cotter being injured and ruled out during the warm-up.

Whilst the play was end-to-end throughout the starting nine minutes, the Cowboys were the first to flinch and allowed Manly to take the opening points through a try to winger Christian Tuipulotu. A nice passage of ad lib footy saw veteran five eighth Kieran Foran end up with the ball and put in a second deft kick towards his right wing for a four pointer after an initial bomb from Garrick became a free for all.

While Manly averaged over 50 metres per set and threatened to cross the line twice more within the opening quarter of the game, the Cowboys struggled to make it out of their own half and didn’t have a genuine attacking set until the 18th minute of play. This set ended in a try gone begging for the North Queensland outfit, with a classic Hamiso “Hammer” Tabuai-Fidow sideline put down only thwarted by the ruling of a forward pass in the lead up.

A masterclass in “show and go” from Morgan Harper out of dummy half led to a 50-metre dash, and eventual pass to Reuben Garrick who avoided Tabai-Fidow’s impressive pace to get Manly’s second try of the night.

It took the better part of 30 minutes and repeated sets on Manly’s goal line, but the Cowboys eventually managed to get on the scoreboard through State of Origin incumbent Valentine Holmes. Despite Holmes’ receiving the accolades for the try, it was truly halfback and captain Chad Townsend who gave the Cowboys their first points of the evening, kicking first to place a bomb on top of Reuben Garrick to be knocked back by Coen Hess, then regathering the ball and placing a deft kick into the in goal for Holmes to tidy up.

Morgan Harper gave away a penalty for a tackle on Tabai-Fidow in the dying minutes of the first half, resulting in the Cowboys’ winger leaving the field for a HIA ruled by the independent doctor, and upon further inspection, Harper may have to worry about being cited by the Match Review Committee for a knee to the head.

The Cowboys came out hard to begin the second 40, scoring through Jeremiah Nanai only four minutes into the restart of play. Not to be left behind, however, Manly hit back with a try of their own only minutes later, with Christian Tuipulotu grabbing his second for the night. With Cherry-Evans and Foran both held up at the play the ball on 5th tackle, hooker Lachlan Croker took things into his own hands (not for the last time in this match) and produced a pinpoint kick to his winger.

While it seemed as though the Cowboys were operating with only one chief playmaker in Townsend, with Dearden particularly quiet and Drinkwater being shut down, Manly were playing as if they had three, with Lachlan Croker into 10 minutes of madness. After producing a 40/20 so large it could be more accurately described as a “40/5” from dummy half, Croker then benefits from a Cherry-Evans kick to get over for his first try of the evening. Finally, as if this wasn’t a large enough contribution for the evening, Croker put through a grubber under the posts and also plants down his own kick for a double.

Following a short kick off in which the Cowboys did successfully manage to regather the ball, Jason Saab seemingly does his best “Aaron Woods State of Origin try celebration circa 2016” impression to gather in a floating kick, resulting in a knock on that gives North Queensland a scrum on the Sea Eagles ten metre line. It took a few sets, but finally, the Cowboys manage to go over through Reece Robson after a Bunker review determines that he was onside from Townsends’ kick, and what was a twelve point difference is reeled back to eight points after a successful conversion by Valentine Holmes.

A shift to the left from Dearden onto Holmes, then Murray Taulagi and finally onto Connelly Lemuelu saw North Queensland crash over to make it a two-point ball game with five minutes left to play.

Cherry-Evans attempted to boot the ball as far as possible down the Cowboys end from the kick off, which momentarily works for the Sea Eagles with Jeremiah Nanai coughing up the ball. Unfortunately for the Manly side, it was captain Daly Cherry-Evans who eventually sealed the win for the Cowboys, putting the ball down under pressure, with Valentine Holmes taking possession and running the length of the field to put the Cowboys ahead 28-16 with four minutes remaining.

Holmes narrowly missed the conversion attempt from his own try, meaning the game remained at a two-point difference, and Manly received a penalty for holding on the full-time buzzer, giving the home team one last opportunity to at least send the game to Golden Point. Cherry-Evans was in place for the two-point field goal attempt following full time, and almost had it- the ball eventually only waving away slightly to the right to secure the Cowboys third win in a row.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTS

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3 pts – Lachlan Croker (Sea Eagles), 2 pts – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys), 1 pt – Chad Townsend (Cowboys)

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