Cowboys secure finals berth with
victory over Raiders

Fulltime score: Round 24 North Queensland Cowboys 31 v Canberra Raiders 28

Match summary: The North Queensland Cowboys have consolidated their position in the top 8 and ended the Canberra Raiders? season with a thrilling 31-28 victory at Dairy Farmers Stadium tonight.

In a match which took a while to find any rhythm, Raiders halfback Todd Carney opened the scoring after receiving a brilliant pass from hooker Lincoln Withers close to the Cowboys? line, and Clinton Schifcofske added the extras to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead early on. Schifcofske then extended the lead just 10 minutes later with a penalty goal right on the money from 40 metres out.

Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne provided the spark his side needed, and scooted from dummy half to score under the posts, and after 25 minutes, the deficit was reduced to 2.

A try to five-eighth Johnathon Thurston just 3 minutes later gave the Cowboys a 12-8 lead with 10 remaining before the break.

A lack of communication from the Cowboys in attack allowed Raiders stalwart Jason Smith to take an intercept and run 30 metres to score under the posts, and the Raiders took a 14-12 lead into halftime.

Smith again showed his bag of tricks, creating a try for winger Matt Gafa just 3 minutes after halftime. Schifcofske slotted the conversion from out wide and the Raiders shot out to an 8 point lead early in the second stanza.

The Cowboys then hit back with tries to fullback Matt Bowen and centre Ty Williams in the space of just 5 minutes, and led 24-20 with 28 minutes remaining in the match.

A moment of madness from Raiders pivot Jason Smith, who produced chip over the top inside his own half, only for the ball to be gathered by Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne, and a run of 45 metres with fresh air in his path resulted in what looked like the match winning try with 17 minutes remaining.

Smith managed to redeem himself just 4 minutes later, with a pinpoint kick hitting Marshall Chalk on the chest, resulting in a try out wide for the winger and the Raiders were within a converted try of the Cowboys, the score was 30-24 with 12 minutes on the clock.

Johnathon Thurston put the issue beyond doubt with a successful field goal attempt with 3 minutes remaining, Matt Gafa hit back for the Raiders but it was all too late, the Cowboys running out winners by 31 points to 28.

The win assures the Cowboys of a top 8 position after last night?s loss from Canterbury, and tonight?s losses from the Roosters and Raiders. The Raiders can now reflect on a season of missed opportunities, although, to be fair, they have been hit hard by injuries in 2005.

Cowboys v Raiders match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game

Scorers: NTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 31 Tries: Payne 2, Thurston, Bowen, Williams Goals: Hannay 5 Field Goals: Thurston CANBERRA RAIDERS 28 Tries: Gafa 2, Carney, Smith, Chalk Goals: Schifcofske 4

Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium Crowd: 17,893 Referee: Tony Archer Half time: Raiders 14-12

Live commentary: 0 min: KICKOFF!

8 min: TRY-Raiders Todd Carney scores from close range after receiving an excellent pass from Lincoln Withers. Conversion successful from Clinton Schifcofske. Raiders 6-0

16 min: NEWS-Still no change to the score with both sides easing their way into this game.

19 min: PENALTY GOAL-Raiders Schifcofske extends the lead for the Raiders landing a penalty kick from 40 metres out. Raiders 8-0

25 min: TRY-Cowboys Aaron Payne scoots from dummy half and scores under the posts, penetrating some poor marker defence from the Raiders. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Raiders 8-6

28 min: TRY-Cowboys Back to back tries for the Cowboys with Johnathon Thurston running off Brett Firman and scoring 20 metres to the left side of the posts. Conversion successful from Josh Hannay. Cowboys 12-8

36 min: NEWS-Still 12-8 at Dairy Farmers Stadium in favour of the home side, with the crowd becoming more vocal as this match progresses.

38 min: TRY-Raiders Jason Smith takes an intercept and runs 30 metres to score under the posts. Poor communication from the Cowboys in attack and great work from the veteran five eighth. Conversion successful from Clinton Schifcofske. Raiders 14-12

HALF TIME-A first half slightly lacking in quality but a tight one all the same. Great effort from Canberra to be in front at the break as they were rated as longshots to beat the Cowboys tonight. So at halftime, the Raiders lead 14-12.

Second half underway in Townsville

43 min: TRY-Raiders Matt Gafa crosses out wide, again the Cowboys defence is found out by Jason Smith, who made them look elementary in the build-up to that try. Great kick by Schifcofske. Raiders 20-12

47 min: TRY-Cowboys Matt Bowen produces some classy footwork to score a beautiful individual try and bring the Cowboys back into the game. Conversion successful from Hannay. Raiders 20-18

52 min: TRY-Cowboys Ty Williams scores a controversial try which was sent upstairs to the video referee who deemed that he had grounded the ball, tough call on the Raiders as he appeared to have no control of the ball. Conversion successful from Hannay and the Cowboys hit the front. Cowboys 24-20

58 min: NO TRY-Paul Bowman denied as the video referee rules that the ball went forward off the hands of Ty Williams, after a bomb was put up by Matt Bowen, still 24-20 in favour of the men from the tropics.

63 min: TRY-Cowboys Jason Smith attempted a chip over the top inside his own half, and it has brought the Raiders unstuck with the bounce of the ball favouring Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne, and then running 45 metres to score under the posts. Conversion is successful from Hannay. Cowboys 30-20

68 min: TRY-Raiders This time Smith's creativity pays dividends for the Raiders, with a pinpoint cross-field kick hitting Marshall Chalk on the chest, resulting in a try out wide for the winger. Schifcofske misses the kick from out wide. Cowboys 30-24

71 min: NEWS-Stupidity from the Raiders with Alan Tongue risking the offload on the first tackle, just 10 metres out from the Cowboys line.

75 min: NEWS-Time running out for the Raiders with the Cowboys desperate to hold on, 5 minutes remaining with the score still 30-24 in favour of the home side.

77 min: FIELD GOAL-Cowboys Thurston strikes the ball through the posts, game over, Cowboys secure a much needed 2 points. Cowboys 31-24

80 min: TRY-Raiders Matt Gafa scores a consolation try out wide for Canberra. Conversion attempt is unsuccessful from Schifcofske. Cowboys 31-28

FULL TIME: The Cowboys secure a much needed victory and consolidate their place in the top 8. The performance however was far from impressive and they have plenty of work to do in order to be rated as a genuine threat for the title. The Raiders are now gone for 2005 and can now look towards 2006. ----------------------------------------- players of the match: 3 - A Payne (Cowboys) 2 - J Thurston (Cowboys) 1 - C Schifcofske (Raiders) -----------------------------------------