The North Queensland Cowboys have moved themselves into the top 4 with a determined 24-16 win over a flat Canterbury Bulldogs side at Belmore Sports Ground this evening.
The Cowboys ran in 4 tries to 3 to overturn an early 4-2 deficit and inflict a painful defeat for the Bulldogs.
They started the game solidly and scored the opening points via a Thurston penalty goal after putting the Bulldogs defensive line under lots of pressure in the early exchanges. However barely 5 minutes after this, a Greg Eastwood intercept try turned the game around for the home side who took a surprise 4-2 lead. Eastwood rushed out of the line and seized upon an errant Michael Morgan pass to go 60 metres downfield and score despite the attention of Lachlan Coote and Jonathan Thurston.
Eventually though the Cowboys moved themselves into gear and re took the lead in the 19th minute when hard nosed back rower Ethan Lowe exploded onto an inside ball and had too much space and time for the Canterbury defence. Thurston was unable to convert and the score remained 6-4 and wouldn’t change till well into the 2nd half.
The game developed into a real arm wrestle and fans would not be mistaken for thinking this was a semi final match considering the intensity, big hits and atmosphere that was observed at Belmore. The half time score line reflected the battle that both sides were having with one another as the Cowboys had just the 2 point buffer despite having 5 consecutive sets of 6 on the Bulldogs line in the closing stages of the 1st half.
The Cowboys showed their class in the second half as tries to Ethan Lowe, Coen Hess and Jason Taumalolo crushed the spirit of the home side. Jonathan Thurston was at the middle of it though as his kicking game constantly had the Bulldogs on the back foot and starting in poor field position. The poise with which he set up Lowe’s 2nd try was a pure masterclass. After taking on the line he showed the dummy and broke the line before sending Lowe under the posts for his 2nd try. The youngster Hess showed great strength to score his 1st NRL try close to the line as did Taumalolo.
Canterbury to their credit never stopped trying and were rewarded with 2 tries in the last 5 minutes, but on an overall scale they were outclassed by a Cowboys side that is hitting their straps. They will be aiming for victory against Gold Coast next week to wrap up a top 4 spot, whilst Canterbury are back to the drawing board and will attempt to get as high on the ladder as possible by beating Souths next week