Michael Morgan has starred as the Cowboys' recorded a dominant 31-18 win over the Raiders at GIO Stadium on Saturday night in front of over 10,000 brave fans.
It was a controversial start to Saturday night's clash when Canberra opened the scoring off what appeared to be a Jordan Rapana knock-on. Sezer kicked through on the last and upon review, it seemed that Rapana's fingers had propelled the ball forward before Elliot Whitehead picked up the scraps to dive over in the corner. Yet the Bunker ruled that there was insufficient evidence to overturn the decision and the home side were given the opening points of the night.
The Cowboys were quickly looking the more organised of the two while the Raiders were guilty of cruelling their chances with a number of errors. And the Cowboys would take full advantage after Joseph Leilua dropped a Michael Morgan kick in the 11th minute. Off the ensuing set Morgan would break through the line and find former Panther Te Maire Martin in support for his first try in Cowboys colours.
The Cowboys continued to dominate possession and a penalty right in front saw Ethan Lowe kick North Queensland further ahead. Jarrod Croker was then forced off the field moments later with a knee injury and then things went from bad to worse when a Gavin Cooper bat back found John Asiata who sent Antonio Winterstein over out wide. They almost went back-to-back after Kyle Feldt streaked away down the touch line, only for an earlier pass from Lachlan Coote to be ruled forward.
Martin forced North Queensland's fourth goal-line dropout with minutes remaining and Coote would snap a late field goal to give the Cowboys a 13-6 lead at the break. The Raiders could count themselves lucky that they were only down from seven after completing at 50% and only having 30% of the ball in the first half.
Some early possession saw the Raiders hit back straight away when play resumed. It was messy, but a flurry of offloads saw Joseph Tapine burst through a disjointed Cowboys defensive line to score under the posts. However, errors continued to hinder Canberra's chances in this one with a mistake from Aidan Sezer giving the Cowboys the chance to hit back - and they did. Jason Tamaulolo did nothing surprising, shoving defenders out of his path before offloading for Ben Hampton who sent Morgan through in the 54th minute.
Only minutes later Morgan had a double. He followed through his own grubber and was rewarded after unconvincingly grounding the ball after Jack Wighton failed to clean it up.
The Raiders were begging for something to spark an otherwise disappointing night and got exactly that when Nick Cotric burst through five defenders to run fifty minutes and plant the ball under the posts.
Yet, it meant little with Morgan breaking through Whitehead's tackle and finding Martin in support who grabbed his second try in his debut game for the Cowboys. Frustrations reached boiling point moments later when Leilua was sin-binned for striking at Feldt. The only solace for the centre - he perhaps had the first chance at a hot shower on a cold winter's night. In the end, a Michael Morgan-inspired Cowboys side would hold on for a dominant 31-18 win.
Both sides are rewarded with a week off next round. After that, Canberra host the Dragons on Friday night in what will be another critical match in the context of their finals aspirations. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are "away" when they take on the Rabbitohs in Cairns on Sunday afternoon in two week's time.