2023 NRL Round 1: Cowboys 19, Raiders 18

North Queensland looked like cruising to a big first up win, but Canberra showed their tenacity in Townsville to nearly pull off an upset.


North Queensland Cowboys 19

Tries: (3) Scott Drinkwater 18th, 34th; Murray Taulagi 15th
(3) Valentine Holmes 19th, 24th (pen), 35th
Field Goals: (1) Chad Townsend 75th

Canberra Raiders 18
Tries: (3) Emre Guler 37th, Tom Starling 53rd, Jack Wighton 57rd
(3) Jamal Fogarty 39th, 54th, 58th
Field Goals: N/A

Embed from Getty Images


After a tough opening 10 minutes in oppressive conditions, North Queensland had the chance for first points when Jordan Rapana was penalised for kicking the ball away after a knock down, but Valentine Holmes missed the kick.

It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to redeem themselves, with Murray Taulagi dotting down in the corner as the Cowboys went left. Holmes missed the conversion.

The Cowboys backed up with Scott Drinkwater scoring off a beautiful Chad Townsend infield kick. Holmes converted to give the Cowboys a 10-0 lead after 18 minutes.

The Cowboys added another two, through a penalty goal, to lead 12-0.

The Cowboys made it 18-0 when Drinkwater chased through a grubber from Reece Robson to score his second try.

The Raiders kept themselves in it (despite only having 32% possession) with a crash ball try to Emre Guler. Jamal Fogarty converted to cut the lead to 18-6 at half-time.

Tom Starling got Canberra even closer after a sustained period of pressure in the second half. There was a bit of luck after a conservative attacking set, with Starling regathering his ricocheted grubber to score. Fogarty’s conversion narrowed to score to 18-12 after 54 minutes.

Canberra levelled the scores a few minutes later when a Cowboys short drop out was gathered by Wighton. With 20 minutes left, the game had turned sharper than a Stuart MacGill leg break.

The Cowboys hit the front through a Townsend field goal with five minutes left – their first points since the 35th minute. That was enough as Canberra squandered some late opportunities. Despite this, Canberra’s fightback was admirable in tough conditions. And the Cowboys – coming into this season with a lot more expectation – will be happy to escape with a tight win.


Embed from Getty Images

3 – Scott Drinkwater (Cowboys)
2 – Chad Townsend (Cowboys)
1 – Reuben Cotter (Cowboys)

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