The New Zealand Warriors have held off a fast finishing North Queensland Cowboys tonight to record a 20-16 victory at 1300Smiles Stadium in front of 12738 loyal fans.
On a balmy Saturday night in Townsville, the visitors went into the match looking for their first win of the season and the first at the venue since 2002.
After a strong start from both teams whose big forwards made valuable yards up the middle, it was Warriors winger Glen Fisiiahi who would cross first after picking up a wayward Chad Townsend pass on the bounce and diving over in the corner to give his side a 4-0 lead after 10 minutes of play.
In the 21st minute Fisiiahi extended the lead to 8-0 after what appeared to be a controversial decision. Warriors half Shaun Johnson poked a little grubber into the in-goal with Michael Morgan fumbling it, however Fisiiahi also appeared to have knocked on before grounding the ball. The try was awarded though with the video referee claiming he had insufficient evidence to overturn the referee's on field decision who had earlier ruled a try.
The Cowboys would soon hit back with a try to Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein who made amends for his team after butchering what looked to be a certain try only a matter of minutes earlier. Winterstein bumped off three Warriors defenders to dive over in the corner in a determined effort. Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston kicked a ripper from the sideline to reduce the deficit to two.
The score line of 8-6 would remain until halftime with both teams making a few errors in the back end of the half with fatigue setting in.
The first part of the second half was quite an arm wrestle with both teams digging in defensively.
Konrad Hurrell would quickly make an impact when he came off the bench for the Warriors, barging over for a try in the 56th minute off a short ball from Nathan Friend. Johnson slotted over his first goal of the night to give the Warriors a 14-6 lead.
Just six minutes later the Warriors lock forward Sione Lousi would cross in what looked a carven copy of the Warriors previous try with Nathan Friend again supplying a sharp pass from dummy half. Johnson again converted to give his side a handy 20-6 lead.
The Cowboys weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet though with Cowboys fullback Morgan hitting back with a try in the 67th minute after Fisiiahi coughed up a high ball from the Cowboys. Thurston converted to reduce the margin to eight.
The Cowboys lead by Thurston, would control possession for the remainder of the game and in the 75th minute they got within four points of the Warriors after a spectacular effort from Kyle Feldt. The Cowboys winger charged onto a long cut out pass from Morgan and dived for the corner placing it down one handed.
Feldt looked to have scored again only moments later but this time it was disallowed with his foot stepping on the sideline just before he dived over.
The Warriors eventually hung on to win what was a gutsy performance.
Next week the Warriors will head back home to host an in-form Wests Tigers outfit in Wellington and the Cowboys will head to the Gold Coast to face the Titans.