The Cowboys have snapped a five-game losing streak, as well as a winless run of five matches at home, with a dramatic, come from behind victory over the Knights, who simply imploded after halftime. It was a game of firsts for the Cows, as they rediscovered some of their old attacking spark. For the Knights, they would have been fuming after relinquishing a decent lead, to be held scoreless in the second half.
Moreover, this loss means their mathematical chances of finals participation is essentially over, and that their poor record in the tropics continues. In addition, Kalyn Ponga left his old stamping ground empty handed.
Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Truly a game of two halves
This was truly a game of 2 halves, given that the Knights had played superbly in the first half, but were atrocious in the second half. Conversely, the Cowboys were quite ordinary in the first half, but rediscovered some of their old attacking spark in the second half, to deservedly snatch victory. Whilst the match won’t necessarily be one which too many fans will regard as great, due to the number of errors from both sides, it was no less dramatic.
The first half saw the Knights commence the first half with an abundance of zing and flair. Thus, they were duly rewarded with 2 tries within the first 10 minutes, to forwards Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Aidan Guerra. Moreover, Kalyn Ponga would torment his former teammates at will, constantly finding gaps in the Cowboys’ defence. The main blights in their first half was the sin-binning of hooker Danny Levi, as well as the try they would concede with 12 men. They would score a further penalty goal, as well as another try to Lachlan Fitzgibbon, and were rather unfortunate not to be further ahead at the break. However, their second have was a total abomination, as their set completions went out the window, as they let the Cowboys back in the match, and were duly punished in the dying minutes, when they conceded the match-winning try.
For the Cowboys, their first half was nothing short of appalling, as they appeared on track to have a cricket score against them, when they fell behind 12-0 in only 10 minutes. To their credit, they would stem the flow of points, when they capitalised on their additional man advantage, courtesy of a try to Justin O’Neill. However, they would continue to pressurize themselves with some unforced errors, and would concede 8 further points. Kyle Feldt can consider himself fortunate to not hand the Knights another try on the stroke of half-time, as his error almost gifted them a try. The second half was a completely different story, as they would score quick tries in succession to Coen Hess and Johnathan Thurston, to storm back into the match at 18-16. Then after repelling the Knights and constantly peppering their try line, they would be rewarded with a late try to Gavin Cooper. Although the final pass from Te Maire Martin appeared to be line ball, the win was a reward for their perseverance.
2 A game of firsts for the Cowboys in 2018
Despite the scrappy nature of the win, there is minimal doubt that the Cowboys will happily take it, as it means they’re 2 points further from the dreaded wooden spoon. Moreover, although the win won’t exactly boost their top 8 chances, there were numerous firsts to come out of this match.
The firsts include: The first time that they won in 2018, despite powerful lock forward Jason Taumalolo making only 124 metres, which was a quiet night by his lofty standards. Moreover, this was the match this season that they would win, despite being behind at halftime. In addition, they would pinch victory in the dying minutes for the first time this season. As well as the aforementioned, they would score a rare win, especially considering they have generally gone on to lose whenever they would concede the first try of the match.
Furthermore, they have not held their opponents scoreless in any half of football this season until this match, where they would not allow the Novocastrians to add to their halftime score. Although it is easier said than done, if they can eliminate their errors and miss fewer tackles, as well as be a bi more composed in attack, there is no reason why they cannot trouble their upcoming opponents in the Roosters, Broncos and Sharks, all of whom are entrenched in the top 8. The Cows might even nab an upset victory over one or two of those teams.
3 Justin O’Neill shows us exactly what he can do
One Cowboys player who has borne the brunt of heavy criticism this season is flyer Justin O’Neill. His first years at the Cowboys saw him terrorise opposition defences with his speed and try scoring abilities. Moreover, he was also very strong in defence, and would rattle the ball-carriers with some bone-chilling hits. However, a glaring weakness of O’Neill’s is his ball handling, as he would make some rather fundamental errors. Unfortunately, his try scoring abilities have eluded him this season, as well as being found wanting in defence and making several errors in attack. Unsurprisingly, he not only endured a multitude of criticism from several supporters, but was eventually dropped to the Queensland Cup in a bid to recapture his form.
He was recalled to the squad last week to line up as a left-winger. His night was fairly mixed, as he bore the brunt of Tariq Sims, and made a few handling errors, but had a few strong carries. However, this week was where Juzzy showed us glimpses of his form in 2015 and 2016. Although he was forced into touch, in his attempt to open the scoring his side’s opening try, Juzzy would make no mistake a few minutes later, as he would cross out wide to score his side’s first try. Moreover, O’Neill would make two telling plays in the second half. Firstly, he made a break on the left hand side and placed a grubbing kick for Thurston to score a try, to reduce the deficit to 2 points. Secondly, as the Knights attempted to seal the game, they would throw a wayward pass, and O’Neill would race off his line and pounce on the loose ball and secure possession for his side. Not long afterwards, the Cows would make a break and score the match winning try.
4 Mathematical finals chances essentially over for the Knights
For the Knights, they needed to win this match in order to maintain their mathematically slim chances of participating in the finals. The opening 10 minutes saw the Novocastrians race out of the blocks en route to a 12-0 lead. It seemed that they were on track to rack up a cricket score on the Cowboys. They would add a further 6 points to their tally, via a penalty goal and unconverted try, and were unfortunate not to add to their tally on the stroke of halftime. Nevertheless, they still led 18-6 at the break.
However, instead of consolidating on their lead, the Knights began to make some fundamental errors in the second half, as they failed to see out their sets. They were duly punished, as the Cowboys would score two quick tries, to reduce the deficit to only 2 points. The Knights would press the Cowboys’ try line, but the final pass would often fail to find the mark, killing off any chances of landing the killer blow. They were duly punished when Te Maire Martin made a break to send Cooper over for the winning try for the Cows.
This meant that with this loss, along with a vastly inferior points differential to the Warriors, Tigers and Raiders, and a draw featuring four top 8 teams, the Knights will essentially miss out on the finals. In addition, their completion rate fell well short of their season average of 80%, as the Cowboys made a mockery of their status as the team with the best completion rate.
5 Knights’ poor record in Townsville continues
Prior to this match, the Knights had lost more matches in Townsville than they won. Moreover, they have been absolutely dominated by the Cowboys in the tropical north over the last decade, leaving with the competition points on only 2 occasions. However, they would have felt confident of putting paid to their poor Townsville record, given how much they have improved this season, as well as the sorry state of the Cowboys, and the fact that former Cowboy Kalyn Ponga was in their ranks.
The first half certainly suggested that they may return to the Hunter with the competition points, as they set about putting the Cowboys to the sword. However, the second half was a very different story, as they capitulated spectacularly and were eventually overrun by a rejuvenated Cowboys outfit. As such, the loss has seen their poor record in Townsville continue.
What did you learn from North Queensland's late win against the Knights? Let us know in the comments below.
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