Top four finish beckons Cowboys
North Queensland have posted an important 32-22 victory against St George Illawarra on the road at WIN Stadium on Monday night.by NRL
North Queensland have posted an important 32-22 victory against St George Illawarra on the road at WIN Stadium on Monday night.
Speaking after the game, Toyota Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston highlighted the significance of the result.
"The competition is neck-and-neck and everyone is fighting for a top four spot or to stay in the eight," Thurston said.
"If we had lost tonight, we would have put pressure on ourselves to stay in the eight, so it was a good win, and hopefully we can build on that against Newcastle next week."
A scrum to the Cowboys deep in their attacking half provided the first real opportunity of the match, and when the visitors spread the ball wide it was the prolific Ashley Graham who opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
It was Graham's 19th of the season, putting him just one behind Ben Barba for most tries scored so far in 2012.
The visitors were piling on the pressure, and centre Kane Linnett continued his rich vein of form, scoring his ninth try in nine games, which funnily enough came nine minutes after the Cowboys' first.
Johnathan Thurston slotted both conversions to give the side a healthy 12-0 lead early in the contest.
An error from the resulting kick-off invited the Dragons into a good attacking position, but some resolute defence held the home side out, the Cowboys showing it was going to take a real effort for their line to be breached.
But St George Illawarra continued to enjoy a mountain of possession, and it finally led to points, with Ben Creagh powering his way over the line after 26 minutes.
However the Cowboys responded in a sensational fashion ? Creagh made an error just moments after he scored, and from the resulting scrum, Bowen linked up with Linnett for the centre's second of the night.
The game began to open up, with Mitch Rein and Jack de Belin showing some good hands with the hooker going over under the posts to take one back for the Dragons.
Soward continued both goal kickers' 100% success rate in this match, leaving the score at 18-12 six minutes out from the break.
There was some concern for halfback Michael Morgan when he was sent reeling by Daniel Vidot.
He made his way back into the line, but it wouldn't stop Vidot from crossing not long after.
Soward couldn't add the extras from out wide, leaving the score at 18-16 at half time.
The Dragons carried their momentum into the second half, with Dan Hunt latching on to a short ball and spinning his way across next to the posts.
Soward converted, and the home side had hit the front 22-18, but there was still plenty of time for North Queensland to turn things around, especially given their early display.
Some powerful running from Matthew Scott, Linnett and Brent Tate kept the Cowboys on the front foot, and they went close to scoring down the right edge through Graham as the half wore on.
The home side were instead awarded a scrum, and a few plays later a brawl erupted, with both Vidot and Ricky Thorby sent to the sin bin in the 53rd minute.
With both sides reduced to 12 men, it was the perfect time for either to capitalise, and the Cowboys did so with Thurston crossing for a crucial four points.
He converted his own try, and the Cowboys were back in front 24-22.
Moments later, Anthony Mitchell sparked another attacking raid, passing to Thurston who put Tate into space, with the centre returning the favour before the Cowboys co-captain found Matthew Bowen in support to score in the 63rd minute.
Thurston's kick was successful, pushing the score out to 30-22, and when the Dragons conceded a penalty right in front of the posts, Thurston added another two points to push his side's advantage out to 10 with just over five minutes remaining.
Thurston was sent to the sin bin in the dying stages of the match for a professional foul, but it would have no bearing on the final result, with the Cowboys running out 32-22 victors.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 (K Linnett 2, A Graham, J Thurston, M Bowen tries; J Thurston 6 goals) d St George Illawarra Dragons 22 (B Creagh, M Rein, D Vidot, D Hunt tries; J Soward 3 goals) at WIN Stadium.
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