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Newcastle Knights 16 v North Queensland Cowboys 18
at EnergyAustralia Stadium
Referees: Paul Simpkins
The North Queensland Cowboys have today defeated the Newcastle Knights by 18-16 at EnergyAustralia Stadium in front of a massive crowd of 26,048.
In the most eagerly anticipated clash so far this season, the game lived up to the pre-match hype with the Cowboys recording a memorable victory away from home, remaining undefeated this season and demonstrating their claims as genuine premiership favourites for the 2006 NRL title.
The match was dominated by heavy forward exchanges with both sides testing the defence of the other continually in a very tight game of footy. Attacking raids were shut down with desperate scrambling defence from both sides, keeping the match poised on a knife?s edge for the entire contest, before a brilliant piece of individual work from Matt Bowen stole the game from Newcastle in the 75th minute.
Newcastle opened the scoring in the 10th minute of play when Matt Gidley scored out wide after Johns and Kurt Gidley stretched the Cowboys and used their numbers to offer a clear passage to the line for the former Australian centre.
The next 15 minutes saw some very punishing runs from both sides stretch one another to limit before something finally broke ? the referee! Paul Simpkins was taken from the field in the 26th minute with a calf injury and he was replaced by Tony De Las Heras, who had earlier refereed the Jersey Flegg game.
Both teams resumed normal transmission and the game went from one end of the field to the other with exciting play, but stiff defence prohibited any further change to the scoreboard. In the 35th minute possession began to weigh back into the Cowboy?s favour and forward Mitchell Seargent stormed across the stripe for the visitor?s first points. With Thurston?s conversion, the teams looked like they?d go to the sheds with North Queensland leading 6-4.
The Knights had other ideas though, with Johns again moving the ball wide from the restart and finding Matt Gidley who threw a no-look pass to George Carmont for a remarkable try right on the bell. With Johns? sideline conversion the home team lead 10-6 at the break.
Things began in the second half much the same way as they ended in the first, as Newcastle scored in the opening minute, putting North Queensland right under the hammer. Winger Brian Carney swooped on the ball after Seargent offloaded to nobody in the first set of six. Three rucks later Danny Buderus took off from dummy half and scored from close range as the Cowboys hung off him. Another conversion Johns extended Newcastle?s lead to 10, with the Cowboys facing a pretty gloomy outlook.
The game then entered a scrappy phase, with dropped balls and penalties dominating proceedings. This came to a screeching halt in the 62nd minute thanks to a great run by Johnathan Thurston, who straightened up play and collected a gem of a pass from close range to break the Knights? line apart and put the visitors back in the hunt. He potted the goal and with only four points in it, the tempo and intensity of the match lifted another notch.
With both sides searching for victory there was a sense that something special was about to take place. Enter Matt Bowen, who up until this stage of the game had been a bit quiet. With the Cowboys camped in the Knights? half and seeking a try to level the scores, the cheeky fullback displayed breathtaking skills with a chip over the top confounding the Newcastle defensive line. He regathered on the full and defied the clutches of flamboyant custodian Milton Thaiday to score the match winning try next to the posts. With Thurston?s conversion the Cowboys held a slim 2-point lead with less then five minutes remaining.
The Knights threw everything they had at North Queensland in the final minutes of the game but couldn?t find a way to the line with the Cowboys desperately clinging on to the lead. The game was easily the best of the season and adds to the credibility of both sides, who are by far and away the form teams of the competition at this point.
Newcastle will be looking to hit back against the rejuvenated Storm next week in Melbourne?s first home game of the year. Meanwhile the Cowboys, who now have a four point break on their nearest rivals, travel to Cronulla to take on the hapless Sharks who copped it out at Campbelltown from the Tigers earlier today.
Newcastle Knights: 16
Tries: Danny Buderus, George Carmont, Matthew Gidley
Goals: Andrew Johns 2/3
North Queensland Cowboys: 18
Tries: Matthew Bowen, Mitchell Seargent, Johnathan Thurston
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 3/3
By the Clock:
Terrific conditions up here at Marathon Stadium for Easter Sunday.
Newcastle as per the program.
North Queensland have dumped their starting front row to the bench and have promoted Carl Webb, David Faiumu and Shane Tronc. Gavin Cooper comes into the side for Josh Hannay who has been dropped to Queensland Cup.
And the Cowboys get us underway in the first half!
6 min: NEWS The Cowboys applying early pressure to the Knights, receiving 2 repeat sets from goal line drop outs.
8 min: NEWS Quinn saves the day for the Knights by fielding a cross-field kick, returning possession to the home side. Intense start to the game.
10 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
After consolidating possession, the Knights work the numbers out wide from Johns to Kurt Gidley to his brother Matt who crosses the stripe. Johns misses the goal from the sideline.
15 min: NEWS Knights defence holding strong in the face of some testing questions from the Cowboys.
18 min: NEWS Very physical contest here today. The forwards are engaging in bone-jarring collisions.
20 min: NEWS Cowboys searching to break the Knights line with little success.
22 min: NEWS Knights pressuring the Cowboys line now as they get some possession.
26 min: NEWS Stoppage in play as the ref is injured! Simpkins will be replaced by Tony De Las Heras, who refereed Premier League.
29 min: NEWS Kirk Reynoldson ijured for the Knights. It appears to be a knee as he hobbles from the field.
30 min: NEWS Cowboys scrambling defence excellent, as they repell the Knights close to the line.
35 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Cowboys finally get over the line with forward Mitchell Seargent scoring under the posts following a bust up the middle by Payne. Thurston converts easily and they lead for the first time in the game after plenty of possession.
36 min: NEWS Injury to Reynoldson is to his calf. He's out of the game.
40 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
The Knights strike back just before halftime, as Johns gets the ball wide to Mat Gidley, who shimmey's before throwing a no-look pass to George Carmont backing up on the outside. Johns bangs the conversion over from the sideline and the home side goes to the break in front.
It's a tough and tight game here at Marathon Stadium. Neither side is giving an inch, with the Knights holding the lead by a nose at the break. Nothing in it at all. Both sides have shown incredible resistance in defence, stifling the attack somewhat, but requiring the playmakers to step up to the next level. Great stuff, stay tuned for a heart-stopping second half!.
And the Knights get us underway in the second half!
41 min: TRY Newcastle Knights
Buderus shocks the visitors and burrows over from close to the line from dummy half after a crucial error by Seargent hands possession over to the Knights. Johns kicks the goal and the Knights push ahead.
50 min: NEWS The Cowboys have lost their way somewhat, throwing loose passes and making mistakes whilst the Knights are capitalising on these errors.
51 min: NEWS Knights pinning the Cowboys down in their own half with a series of precise kicks from Johns.
52 min: NEWS Newcastle dominating the forward battle in the second half.
56 min: NEWS Knights turn the ball over deep inside their own territory. This is the Cowboys' first real chance of the second half.
59 min: NEWS Scrappy play at the moment, with both sides squandering possession through silly mistakes.
62 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys strike back after they move the ball wide for Thurston to sprint past the defence on a straightening run to the line. Thurston converts and there's four points in it with under a quarter of the game left.
63 min: NEWS Crowd: a massive 26,048.
68 min: NEWS Tough end to end footy at the moment. A few penalties creeping into the game but still a high quality affair.
75 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Bowen levels the scores with some brilliant individual footy. He chipped over the top and regathered, beating Thaiday to score. Thurston converts and the Cowboys lead with 5 to go!
76 min: NEWS Jensen looses the ball from the restart in the play-the-ball. Newcastle on the attack.
78 min: NEWS Cowboys winding the clock down as Newcastle get one more roll of the dice.
80 min: NEWS The Cowboys come from behind to secure victory against the Knights at Newcastle in a fantastic game of Rugby League.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Matthew Bowen
2 - Danny Buderus
1 - Johnathan Thurston