In what was a great conclusion the first ever NRL Magic Round, the Rabbitohs capitalised on a patchy Cowboys outfit.
A worn out Lang Park turf awaited the Rabbitohs and the Cowboys as they ran out in front of a good Brisbane crowd. The last game of the inaugural Magic Round was set to be a good one as the Rabbits hoped to continue their red hot form while the Cowboys try to build momentum and work their way up the table.
The game began with a classic NRL arm wrestle, fighting for field position and momentum. That was until Jordan Kahu was hit high and had to leave the field for a HIA, resulting in a positional shift for North Queensland. Souths gained some field position and hooker Damien Cook put Slammin’ Sam Burgess through a gap to score the first try. A few minutes later Cook struck again, skipping out of dummy half and putting Cam Murray through a big hole to score. Pain came in threes for the Cowboys as Cook again flew out of dummy half finding a big hole, eventually drawing the fullback and giving Kyle Turner a free passage to the chalk.
The return of Kahu let the Cowboys reset as they started to build momentum but weren’t able to capitalise. That is until the 36th minute when young second rower Mitch Dunn gave a JT-like short-ball to Justin O’Neill who muscled over for the Cowboys’ first. Then came the magic: Michael Morgan, about 15m from the Rabbitohs tryline, delivered a pin-point banana kick straight across the field to O’Neill. The kick looked like an accident, surprising not only those watching but the Rabbitohs defence, leaving O’Neill untouched to score just before halftime, with Souths leading 18-10.
The half resumed with a 50/50 call going against Kyle Feldt at the play the ball, giving the Rabbitohs good field position. Cody Walker waved his wand, beating three Cowboys to score and extend the lead to 14. In the next set, George Burgess showed some agility to beat some poor defence through the middle with Kahu stopping him close to the line. Cook then jumped over from dummy-half to cap off a man of the match performance. The Cowboys showed some heart with a try at the end through Tom Opacic but it was too little too late. South Sydney were just too good, now sitting at second on the ladder, moving to eight wins and one loss.
COOK TOO GOOD
Damien Cook has hurt the Cowboys before and by golly did he do it again. The star hooker was easily the best on the field finishing the game with two line-breaks, three try assists, a try and a game-high 51 tackles. The classy forward is in supreme form and has the NSW and Australian number nine just about tattooed on his back.
COWBOYS’ INCONSISTENCY COSTS
The Cowboys continue to show glimpses of success but fail to play the full 80 minutes. Three tries in under 15 minutes in the first half and two tries in five minutes in the second half undid the men from the north. Whether it’s physical or mental, it is a key issue that the Cowboys have to solve if they want to play finals football.
WALKER SCORES… AGAIN
Cody Walker continues to show off his natural ability after scoring yet again just after halftime. Walker now sits on top of the try scoring list with ten tries in nine games. The pivot is certainly stating his case for a State of Origin debut and if he continues this form he will be mighty hard to leave out.
FORWARD PACK WOES
Cowboys coach Paul Green has some thinking to do after another loss as the Cowboys sit at three wins and six losses. Holes were a-plenty through the middle for the Rabbitohs and something needs to be done to tighten up the middle. Scott Bolton and Matt Scott both had some crucial lapses in defence that ended up proving very costly for the Cowboys. While John Asiata played admirably at six, the pressure on Morgan as a sole playmaker may mean Asiata could move back into the middle.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 16
Tries: Justin O’Neill (2) Tom Opacic
Goals: Jordan Kahu 2/3
RABBITOHS: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray Interchange: 8. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight
COWBOYS: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 19. Tom Opacic 5. Ben Hampton 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 14. Kurt Baptiste 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 9. Jake Granville 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo