Cowboys beat Dragons 32-22 in NRL
North Queensland overcame a mid-game slumber to maintain the rage in their pursuit of a top-four finish with a 32-22 win over a slumping St George Illawarra.
Needing a win to stay in touch with fourth-placed Manly – with the top four receiving a guaranteed second bite of the cherry under the new finals format – the Cowboys recovered from 22-18 down to move two competition points behind the reigning premiers and third-placed South Sydney.
The third-straight loss finally extinguished any chance the Dragons had of playing finals football.
The Dragons paid the price for a brain explosion from winger Daniel Vidot, who was sin-binned with his side leading by four just before the hour after unleashing a flurry of punches when he joined a fight involving Matt Cooper and James Tamou.
Cowboys prop Ricky Thorby was also sat down for ten minutes for joining the ruckus – and while the Dragons received the penalty for Tamou’s instigation of the incident – it was the Cowboys who took advantage.
Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen, North Queensland’s best two on the night, scored tries two minutes apart – Bowen’s a long-range effort involving his five-eighth and centre Brent Tate.
By the time Vidot rejoined the fray with 16 minutes remaining, the Dragons were down by eight and the Cowboys had a spring in their step.
It spoiled a tremendous red and white recovery after the Cowboys had scampered from the gates to lead 12-0 after 15 minutes and 18-6 before the half hour.
They seemed in the mood to rack up a big total, but with the Dragons befitting from a string of penalties, the tide turned and Mitch Rein and Vidot scored before the break – the latter’s coming off a superb Jamie Soward long ball.
When Dan Hunt crashed over five minutes after the restart, the Dragons had the momentum before Vidot handed it back.
Cowboys coach Neil Henry praised his dynamic duo of Thurston of Bowen but admitted a top four finish was out of their control.
“Manly have been very good and we’re still sitting two points behind, but we need to win our games,” Henry said.
“Coming down here and getting a victory is tough and it was that sort of game tonight.
“We needed a couple of big plays and Johnno stepped up and Matty Bowen, our experienced players put on some nice plays and we got over the line.”
Dragons coach Steve Price was left lamenting the crucial brawl which cruelled his side’s rhythm.
“It certainly did,” Price said when asked if the brawl changed the momentum.
“… we couldn’t control those early tackles in a couple of sets after that period and they scored a couple of quick tries.
“They were there to be beaten, just too many crucial errors at crucial times, stupid penalties at stupid times – the story of our season.”© AAP 2013
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