The Sydney Roosters kicked away late to beat the North Queensland Cowboys 30-16 at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The Cowboys held more ball and made less errors but some of their sixth-tackle options were less than perfect. In the end, this made all the difference.
The Cowboys earned a number of repeat sets early but it was the Roosters who would strike first.
After a one-one-one strip by Joseph Manu, the Roosters marched downfield. A left-edge move featuring Victor Radley, James Tedesco and Josh Morris saw Daniel Tupou score in the corner.
Just ten minutes into the game, the Roosters were in again. Sam Walker threw a deft inside ball to Radley, who drew Valentine Holmes and found Walker backing up to score. The Roosters were going at a point a minute.
The Roosters right side clicked 15 minutes later with great lead-up work from Walker and Lachlan Lam putting Matt Ikuvalu in the corner.
Two minutes later, when Angus Crichton beat some fairly flimsy defence to score, it seemed like the Cowboys resolve had disappeared.
However, as we have seen with the new sin-bin guidelines set by the NRL, the game can change quickly. It happened again tonight when Sitili Tupouniua took Lachlan Burr high and spent the last ten minutes of the half on the sidelines.
In that time, the Cowboys ran in two tries.
The first came when Sam Walker rushed out of the line to try and cover the overlap. Scott Drinkwater made a diagonal run behind Walker and found Javid Bowen, who dived over.
The second came when Reece Robson made a bust from dummy half and put Drinkwater in under the posts.
A comfortable 18-0 lead had been reduced to 18-10 by halftime.
The Cowboys scored again two minutes after the break. The Cowboys went left early in the count. Valentine Holmes was able to brush off Walker and run downfield before turning it back inside for Drinkwater. The deficit had been reduced to two.
Holmes missed a penalty goal shortly after, which would have tied the game up.
A bit of James Tedesco magic gave the Roosters some breathing space with just under 30 minutes remaining. From his own half, Tedesco burst out of dummy half and appeared destined for a try. An ankle tap brought him down but a flick pass off the ground to Angus Crichton was all class.
The Cowboys had their chances to tie the game up but some poor last-tackle options let the Roosters off the hook.
With 15 minutes to go, Burr took Tedesco high. Burr went to the bin, Adam Keighran kicked the penalty goal and the Roosters had regained control.
With seven minutes remaining, a left-side play saw Morris push off Feldt and set up Tupou for the match winner.
Despite the mid-game fightback from the Cowboys, the Roosters had held on.
Three points: Angus Crichton was a force out on the Roosters’ left edge all night, causing plenty of problems for the Cowboys’ defence. His two tries were a fair reflection of his game.
Two points: The Roosters were a better team when Victor Radley was on the field. We know he is hard hitting in defence but he played a ball distributor role, particularly in the first half. This took the pressure off the young Roosters halves.
One point: Reece Robson was fantastic for the Cowboys, with his dummy half runs providing the catalyst for the Cowboys’ attack. He also topped the tackle count.