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The North Queensland Cowboys have set their new coach Paul Green up for a perfect start after securing a 28-22 come from behind win at 1300Smiles Stadium in Townsville.
Despite the threat of an impending tropical cyclone, the third of the opening Super Saturday matches took place up at 1300Smiles Stadium. The match was also touted as the match of the new coaches with Paul Green making his NRL coaching debut while one of Canberra’s favourite sons Ricky Stuart returned home to coach the Raiders after an unsuccessful season with the Parramatta Eels.
The Raiders started the match the better team with some early opportunities and they capitalised when Edrick Lee scored in the fifth minute following some good footwork and passing from Broncos bound Anthony Milford.
After having a try knocked back by the Video Referees, the Raiders were forced to attack from their own end when Jarrod Croker took advantage of a fortunate bounce and raced downfield to score and help extend the lead to 12-0.
Cowboys then fought their way back over the line through Johnathan Thurston who thought he’d scored but most importantly Gavin Badger disagreed and sent it upstairs to Video Referee on a No Try. After replays came back inconclusive the No Try decision stood, so the score remained 12-0.
The Raiders then showed their early dominance once again when Josh Papalli steamrolled his way through off a Terry Campese pass to score and despite the fact the conversion was missed the Raiders still had a 16-0 lead.
It wasn’t until the 30th minute when the Cowboys got on the board through Kyle Feldt and then again just minutes later through Jonathan Thurston off a quick tap, that the Cowboys looked any chance of getting back into the match.
The second half started the same way as it ended for the Cowboys with good momentum and it took them just 10 minutes to level the scores after Gavin Cooper scored off the back of some good hands from Brent Tate & Johnathan Thurston.
Neither side could really land a hit on their opponents throughout the next 10 minutes and out of the blue an uncharacteristic error from JT saw Reece Robinson collect the ball and race 90m to score and give the Raiders the lead again. Despite Robinson missing the conversion from out wide it didn’t take long for the Raiders to get level when they took the 2 points on offer after the Cowboys were penalised for being offside right on the goal line.
The final points of the night belonged to Antonio Winterstein who somehow kept his foot just centimetres in field and managed to dive and keep his body in the air to score and despite an initial No Try call from Gavin Badger, the Try was awarded by the Video Referees.
Both sides have plenty of positives and negatives to take out of the game and there doesn’t look to be any injury concerns coming out of the match at this early stage for both sides which is good news.
The Raiders task doesn’t get any easier having to play at Hunter Stadium against what could be a very depleted Knights side, whilst the Cowboys have their most recognisable fixture at Suncorp Stadium up against the Brisbane Broncos.