With Part 1 analysing the people behind the scenes, the players make up Part 2.
All any sports fan wants is a win. No questions asked, as long as your team is ahead on the final scoreboard.
And it doesn’t really matter how they get that win: it could be a dominant victory; it could be last-minute.
It could be through cosmic intervention as a stray meteorite drops down from the sky as an opposition player is certain to score the winning points.
Last night the North Queensland Cowboys got the win in the best possible way: exhilarating attack and strong defence creating perpetual pressure on the opposition.
There was plenty to like about the Cowboys in the lead-up. Australian prop and skipper Matthew Scott was a late inclusion after a few weeks away with a foot injury, while the St George-Illawarra Dragons had a poor record in Townsville, winning two from ten attempts.
The Cowboys were no certainty though, unusually finding themselves 1-3 in home games this season. They were also coming off a loss to South Sydney where they found themselves 20-0 down after just 20 minutes.
No such problems here. Two minutes in, first set of six, and Ray Thompson threw a neat little cut-out to Jonathan Thurston. Thurston sent Brent Tate through the gap before Tate passed back inside for a screaming Thompson to race over the line in the best start imaginable.
Barely two minutes later and a simple kick return for Dragons’ fullback Daniel Vidot turned bad as three Cowboys defenders kept him in-goal before an accidental knee jarred the ball loose for Tate to claim the try. The video referee had a different opinion – not that it mattered soon afterwards.
On the 12-minute mark, the Cowboys playmakers set up the kind of try you dream about at night. Thompson cut-out pass to Thurston, inside ball to Matty Bowen, speed, step, Dragons player grasping at thin air, try. They back this up with one straight out of the textbook: Thurston, cut-out to Bowen, short pass to Linnett, try.
This was going so well you didn’t mind that Thurston had forgotten his kicking boots, scuffing conversions and drop-outs. So well in fact, that James Segeyaro thought he’d jump in as well, running straight through the middle before putting in a little chip kick out right for Tate. Tate juggled, ran and dived… did he ground it? Did he touch the sideline?
Video ref says…yes!
The Cowboys attacking prowess was not a shock, we know they can attack. What was pleasing, however, was their defensive intensity. On the one occasion the Dragons made a break close to the line, Thurston popped up again with a magic play, somehow dislodging the ball as Jeremy Latimore was over the line and diving to score.
So up 22-0 at halftime with quite possibly the best half of football you could want to see from your team. As always with the Cowboys though, could they defend it against a side that pulled out a miracle the week before?
Hearts went into mouths 10 minutes into the second half as Dragons winger Jason Nightingale made a break down the right before a delicate kick inside for Brett Morris to get the Dragons on the board.
However, any hopes they had for a comeback were deflated right from the kick-off when Matt Prior fielded the ball with his foot on the line before something much more shocking.
With the Cowboys on the attack, Prior knocked Thurston out cold with an elbow to the head, leaving Cowboys and Maroons fans in shock. Neither Thurston or Prior played any further part: Thurston went off as a precaution and Prior made history as the first player sent off in 2012.
Despite this loss, the Dragons certainly didn’t stop trying. A number of quick penalties gave them quality field position, although a late Segeyaro hit on Ben Hornby didn’t help their cause.
Finally a Thompson grubber kick sealed it for the Cowboys after a wicked bounce allowed Tariq Sims to score.
So a dominant win for the Cowboys that’s positive in so many ways. Not only did they show they have the ability and discipline to win and win well, but they also kept a dangerous side to just the one try.
Not only that, but the Cowboys now have a 50 percent win record against the Dragons, something they only have against one other current club (the Gold Coast Titans).
But while happy/ecstatic with the win (knockouts notwithstanding), I do actually have a question.
Why can’t we play like this every week?