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Round 2 North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. Manly Sea Eagles 16 Match summary:
The North Queensland Cowboys have held on to defeat Manly Sea Eagles 20-16 in Townsville tonight.
The Cowboys opened the scoring after nine minutes when winger Matt Sing crossed for the first of his three tries.
The Sea Eagles struck back in the 17th minute through winger Steve Bell.
But two more tries to the Cowboys, including a decisive blow from halfback Brett Firman, gave the North Queenslanders a handy 16-4 lead at half time.
The second half stated disastrously for Cowboys forward Aaron Payne who went down after a head knock. He was assisted from the field in a neck brace but was reportedly regaining movement later that evening.
The Cowboys went up another gear through Matt Bowen, the fullback kicking the first 40/20 of season in the 44th minute and putting the home side on the attack. A minute later Manly veteran Steve Menzies was sin binned for dissent and a minute after that, Sing posted his hat trick to give the Cowboys a commanding 20-4 lead.
Nevertheless, despite enjoying the bulk of possession and field position, the Cowboys were unable to put their opponents away. Manly produced an outstanding defensive effort and on this foundation, launched their comeback.
Tries to fullback Brett Stewart in the 51st and 62nd minutes got the Sea Eagles within four points and with over 15 minutes to go, the visitors had the momentum going their way. The Cowboys responded with repeat sets but were unable to breach the Manly line.
With time running out, the Sea Eagles launched one final assault - the Cowboys holding on and taking the points in a nail-biting finish.
North Queensland Cowboys: 20
Tries: Matt Sing (3), Brett Firman
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 2/6
Manly Sea Eagles: 16
Tries: Brett Stewart (2), Steve Bell
Goals: Matt Orford 2/3
Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Paul Simpkins
Big crowd in Townsville for tonight's clash. Kick off soon...
Players coming onto the field. A number of changes for both sides including Manly's Steve Menzies who has been moved to the centres.
9 min: NEWS Video ref checking possible Cowboys try.
9 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Matt Sing gets the nod from the video ref after getting benefit of the doubt on a possible offside call. Cowboys having the early momentum. Try scored out wide and the conversion from Johnathan Thurston is a ripper.
14 min: NEWS Video ref checking possible Manly try.
VERDICT: NO TRY.
Knock on and scrum.
15 min: NEWS At the other end of the field as the Cowboys counter attack. Video ref checking possible Cowboys try.
VERDICT: NO TRY.
Knock on against Ty Williams.
17 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Winger Steve Bell scores out wide after Manly cuts through the defence down the left side. In the next movement, they have an overlap on the right and Bell is on hand to score. Orford's conversion attempt hits the upright and is waved away.
23 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Sing gets a double out wide. Follows an intercept and 50m run from Justin Smith, putting the Manly defence on the back foot. Conversion attempt hits the upright and is unsuccessful.
28 min: NEWS Injury to Cowboys forward Aaron Payne, copping a knock in the head. He is taken off on a medicab in a neck brace.
29 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL North Queensland Cowboys
Thurston unsuccessful with penalty goal attempt.
37 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Halfback Brett Firman steps through and then forces his way over next to the posts. Thurston converts. A killer blow for the Sea Eagles just before half time.
39 min: NEWS Manly forward Shane Dunley on report after a lifting tackle on Steve Southern. Southern's momentum carrying his legs northwards.
HALF TIME: Cowboys 16-4
Cowboys with more possession, more completions and less errors. Manly with all the work to do.
Second half underway...
43 min: NEWS Aaron Payne reportedly taken to hospital with a bit of numbness in the neck. However he does have movement.
44 min: NEWS Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen kicks a 40/20, the first one of 2006.
45 min: NEWS Manly centre Steve Menzies SIN BINNED for back chatting the referee.
46 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Sing gets a hat trick. His 150th career try. Simple catch and pass and the Cowboys have the numbers. Sing crosses and improves the position for Thurston who hooks it away.
51 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Brett Stewart takes the final pass to score after a classy 60m movement from Manly beginning with Steve Bell who found Chris Hicks in support. Orford conversion is OK.
58 min: NEWS Cowboys pressing after receiving a penalty following a bit of a dust-up. In other news Matt Sing has apparently left the field after receiving a knock.
61 min: NEWS Video Ref looking at possible Manly try.
62 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles
Brett Stewart gets benefit of the doubt, scoring in the corner just before going into touch. Follows Cowboys error which put Manly on the attack. Tremendous kick from Orford and conversion is successful.
65 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL North Queensland Cowboys
Manly penalised for play-the-ball infringement. Kick is from 15m out and 15m in from touch, and Thurston misses.
75 min: NEWS Cowboys forward Shane Tronc HELD UP. Great defence from Manly holding out Cowboys for two sets after Menzies knocks on in front of the sticks. Outstanding effort but time is running out for the Sea Eagles.
In other news, Manly's Brett Stewart is limping badly.
76 min: NEWS Cowboys get the ball back and Ty Wlliams is HELD UP - Manly defend in tremendous fashion once again.
80 min: NEWS Cowboys get the points, hanging on to win 20-16. Manly had one last throw of the dice with a set at the Cowboys line. Manly played approximately 65% of the game in the own half and had around 40% of possession. But despite this, they put in a good showing in the latter stages.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
2 - Luke O'Donnell (Cowboys)
1 - Brett Stewart (Sea Eagles)