North Queensland Cowboys won an extraordinary game tonight in Townsville, beating Canberra Raiders 20-16 with an astonishing try by Gavin Cooper in golden-point time when he touched down a failed field-goal attempt by Johnathan Thurston that rebounded off the underside of the crossbar and stayed in the in-goal area.
It was a game between two sides that have been widely tipped for glory in 2017 and the encounter didn’t disappoint, with the scores level 6-6 at half-time. The Raiders had taken an early lead with a try by stand-in fullback Zac Santo, who was a late replacement for Jack Wighton, who pulled out late with an illness.
Lachlan Coote replied for the Cowboys on 29 minutes, with Thurston’s goal levelling the scores.
Joey Leilua put the Raiders back in the lead with an unconverted try, but Coen Hess replied for the Cowboys and Thurston’s conversion gave them a two-point lead.
And when Javid Bowen intercepted a Leilua pass and raced away to score on 70 minutes, it looked like a Cowboys win, but Thurston couldn’t add a conversion that would have given him a career 2,000 points.
With just four minutes remaining of normal time Leilua touched down a grubber by Josh Hodgson and Sezer’s conversion levelled the scores again, setting the scene for a remarkable climax to the game.
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 20 Javid Bowen, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo; Subs: 14 Ben Hampton, 15 John Asiata, 16 Coen Hess, 17 Patrick Kaufusi
Raiders: 19. Zac Santo , 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Elliott Whitehead, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Clay Priest, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Sia Soliola, 13. Luke Bateman; Subs: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Dunamis Lui, 16. Jeff Lima, 17. Joe Tapine
Full coverage of the weekend’s NRL action will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express