New Zealand Warriors kept up the pace at the top of the NRL table with a hard-fought 16-23 victory over struggling North Queensland Cowboys.
The first-half belonged to the Warriors despite the hosts putting the first points on the board with a Johnathan Thurston penalty goal in the 11th minute. It wasn’t until midway through the opening 40 minutes that the Warriors scored their first through Ken Maumalo, but two more tries in just eight minutes threatened to take the game away from the Cowboys. A superb break and finish from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – whom had never scored against the Cowboys previous to this fixture – was followed up by a powerful effort by Solomone Kata to send the Warriors 2-18-up with Shaun Johnson converting all three.
North Queensland finally stemmed the tide three minutes before half-time when Javid Bowen – playing his first game since round 5 – was the beneficiary of a neat move. Thurston added the extras, but the Cowboys were still down 8-18 at the break.
The Cowboys started the second-half the strongest, reducing the deficit to just six when Kyle Feldt burrowed over from dummy half on 42 minutes. A Johnson penalty restored the Warriors’ two-score advantage before the home side struck once more just after the hour mark. Te Maire Martin scooped up a loose pass on his own 30-metre line and charged towards the visitors’ line. The halfback didn’t have the pace, but Martin offloaded to Feldt who dotted down to bring the score to 16-20 with Thurston’s two missed conversions the difference.
The home side nearly took the lead with 15 minutes to go when Thurston thought he had scored, only for referee Henry Perenara to spot a knock-on in the buildup by Jason Taumalolo. The Warriors immediately went downfield and after applying great pressure were rewarded when Feldt spoke out of turn to hand Johnson a shot at goal who obliged to make it 16-22.
With ten minutes left North Queensland piled on the pressure, but the Warriors’ defence stood firm. It took a drop-goal from Shaun Johnson with one minute left to finally settle a rip-roaring encounter.
Cowboys: Morgan, Feldt, Tuala, Linnett, Bowen, Martin, Thurston (c), Hoare, Granville, Bolton, Cooper, Hess, Taumalolo; Interchanges: Hampton, Fensom, Jensen, Molo
Tries: Bowen, Feldt 2; Goals: Thurston 2
Warriors: Tuivasa-Sheck, Beale, Hiku, Kata, Maumalo, Green, Johnson, Gavet, Luke, Paasi, Papali’i, Harris, Blair; Interchanges: Lawton, Satae, Afoa, Mannering
Tries: Maumalo, Tuivasa-Sheck, Kata; Goals: Johnson 4; Field Goals: Johnson