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The North Queensland Cowboys have advanced in the Finals series with a stunning 30-22 victory over an in-form Canterbury Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium tonight.
Already celebrating the club's first ever semi-final appearance, the Cowboys showed they weren't just there to make up the numbers, defeating the short odds favourites and advancing to next weekend's finals.
The North Queenslanders came out firing, running away to a 16-0 lead after 28 minutes with centre Matt Sing playing a starring role. Shell-shocked, the Bulldogs had to do without skipper Steve Price for 10 minutes after he was sin binned, the Cowboys scoring two tries while he was off the field.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board after 32 minutes and at half time, the Cowboys led 18-6.
The Cowboys extended their lead to 26-6 before a Canterbury resurgence saw the score pegged back to 26-22 with just five minutes remaining.
But in the 78th minute, a cross field bomb from Matt Bowen saw Matt Sing fly high above the pack to score his hatrick and seal an historic victory for the North Queensland Cowboys.
McIntyre System update: The result means that the Dragons' season is over. With both the Storm and now the Cowboys winning, the Dragons will be one of the two teams that will bow out.
Broncos will be closely watching tomorrow's Roosters vs Raiders match. If another upset occurs and the Raiders win, the Broncos will bow out for 2004. If the Roosters win as expected, the Raiders will bow out.
Scorers: BULLDOGS 22 Tries: S.B.Williams, Utai, Harris, Tonga Goals: El Masri 3/4 defeated by COWBOYS 30 Tries: O'Donnell, Sing 3, Bowen Goals: Hannay 5/7
Telstra Stadium Referee: Tim Mander
By the clock: Pre Match: Qualifying final 3 will see the Bulldogs go in as heavy favourites against the Cowboys who will be playing in their very first finals match. Will the lack of experience count against the Cowboys ? Only time will tell. Not a big crowd at this stage but the people are still filing in.
0 min: Cowboys Kick off.
5th Min: NEWS- Good strong defence and no mistakes from either side to start the game.
9th Min: Bulldogs on the attack after a repeat set of six.
11th Min: Great defence from the Cowboys after 3 sets of six from the Dogs on the tryline.
12th Min: NEWS - Steven Price sent to the sin-bin after a professional foul, holding down in the tackle after a break from the Cowboys.
13th Min: TRY - Cowboys Bowen passes from dummy half & Luke O'Donnell scores after some very poor defence around the rucks. Conversion successful from Hannay from right in front. Cowboys 6 - 0
16th Min: Video Ref: No Try to Matt Utai after trying to put the ball down out wide he gets pushed into the corner post. He should of got low and dived. A chance lost for the Dogs.
19th Min: NEWS - A dream start for the Cowboys who are playing with great confidence for a team playing their very first finals.
21st Min: TRY - Cowboys Try to the Cowboys after a bomb and Sing takes the ball on the sideline and dives over to score in the corner. Conversion unsuccessful from Hannay. Cowboys 10 - 0
22nd Min: NEWS - Cowboys make a mistake from the kickoff. Utai again crosses the tryline and gets pushed into touch again.
24th Min: NEWS - Steven Price reportedly has come back onto the field early after 10 minutes in the sin-bin. Anasta injured and is in the dressing room with a bruised sternum.
28th Min: TRY - Cowboys A carbon copy of the previous try to Sing. Fien puts the bomb up, Sing takes the ball and dives over to score. Conversion successful from Hannay Cowboys 16 - 0
30st Min: NEWS - The dogs attack looks very flat at this stage and they need a major lift to get back into this match.
32nd Min: TRY - Bulldogs Sonny Bill Williams get the Dogs back into the match after busting through some flimsy defense on the line. Conversion successful from El Masri Cowboys 16 - 6
35th Min: PENALTY GOAL - Cowboys Penalty to the Cowboys after the dogs were offside. Hannay successful. Cowboys 18 - 6
38th Min: NEWS - Fien makes a break from halfway and gets pulled down a meter from the line. Lucky break for the Dogs right on halftime.
HALFTIME... The Cowboys couldn't have asked for a better start to the match, running in the first 2 tries when Price was in the sin-bin. The Bulldogs attack has looked very ordinary at stages and Sherwins kicking game also has been poor. They will need to lift a lot in the second half to have any chance. Can the Cowboys pull off the upset of the Year ? The St. George supporters will be very nervous at this stage. A great second half awaits.
Second Half underway...
41st Min: NEWS - Anasta hasn't returned to the field and looks unlikely to.
43rd Min: PENALTY GOAL - Cowboys Penalty to the Cowboys after Sonny Bill Williams strips the ball in a 2 man tackle. Hannay converts from in front. Cowboys 20 - 6
48th Min: NEWS - FIGHT - Price and Morrison comes to blow after a head slam from Morrison, Price overeacts and throws the first punch. Penalty to the Cowboys. Price on report.
52nd Min: NEWS - The Dogs have come out in the second half with more intencity but have been unable to convert into points.
56 Min - TRY - Cowboys A great break up the middle of the ruck from McWilliams, he draws the fullback and passes to Bowen to score next to the post. conversion successful from Hannay. Cowboys 26 - 6.
Anymore points for the Cowboys and the Dogs will find it impossible to come back.
62nd Min: TRY - Bulldogs The Dogs spread the ball wide and Utai finally gets a try after stepping inside Bowen to score. El Masri converts. Cowboys 26 - 12.
Is this the start of a comeback?
65th Min: FIGHT - Mason trades punches with about 3 Cowboys players Myles pushes Mason away for holding down in the tackle. Penalty Dogs.
66th Min: TRY - Bulldogs Dogs spread the ball wide and create an overlap and Ben Harris finishes things off. Conversion successful from El Masri from the touchline. Cowboys 26 -18
HERE COMES THE DOGS.
73rd Min: NEWS - Cowboys have settled down after the last try for the Dogs and look set to create a huge upset as the Dogs need to score twice in the last 7 minutes.
75th Min: TRY - Bulldogs A great ball to put Tonga into a gap, He comes to Bowen and carries him over the line to score out wide. Conversion unsuccessful from El Masri after hitting the upright. Cowboys 26 - 22
78th Min - TRY - Cowboys Another Try to Matt Sing after a cross field bomb from Bowen. Sing flies up above the pack to score a hatrick, all from bombs. The Cowboys have caused the upset of the year. Game over for the Dogs. Conversion unsuccessful. Cowboys 30 - 22
FULLTIME.... What a great victory for the Cowboys in their very first finals match. They thoroughly deserved their victory and played with great confidence , the Dogs gave them to much of a start and couldn't peg them back. They were led superbly by Rauhihi & Southern up front to lay the platform for Bowen who created plenty of line breaks in the second half and what about Sing who scored a hatrick in only his second game back since State of Origin. No one really stood out for the Dogs but Sonny Bill Williams was the best in a loosing team. This really opens up the finals series now, St George are now gone and can organise their end of season trip away. The Cowboys will now take on the Broncos at Telstra stadium next week if the Roosters win tomorrow.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - M Sing (Cowboys) 2 - S Southern (Cowboys) 1 - M Bowen (Cowboys) -----------------------------------------