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Prior to the start of the season, most experts would have predicted that this would be a top of the table clash. The reality is that both these teams have started off much slower than anticipated, and a victory at Dairy Farmers for either side would provide an invaluable platform to propel their season into gear. The Sea Eagles had sprung together 2 wins, while the Cowboys had overcome the Sharks in Adelaide.
Townsville had provided perfect playing conditions for what proved to be an exciting and entertaining game of football. The Last Post was played in commemoration of the fallen ANZACS, and proved to signal the start of a war between these two teams.
The early stages of the game set the platform for the entire match. Both teams completed their sets and neither was able to gain any dominance. The kicking games of Thurston and Orford were on song from the onset.
Manly tried a creative, yet risky play early in the tackle count whilst in possesion inside their own 20 metre line. Orford kicked crossfield into the waiting arms of David Williamson, who in turn passed inside to a waiting Cowboys defender. From the ensuing set, Cowboys winger Ben Farrar opened the try scoring on the end of a nice backline move.
Seven minutes later, relentless pressure by the Sea Eagles on the Cowboys line reaped the rewards. Glenn Hall steamed onto a pass, crash over the top of Matt Bowen to ground the ball underneath the uprights. Scott Bolten put the home side back in front after latching onto a pass from Thurston. Bolton did all the work on his own, beating the tackle of Watmough and carrying Michael Robertson over the line with him.
The match seemed to turn in the 30th minute, when Cowboys lock Luke O'Donnell objected to a high tackle by Jason King on Ben Farrar. O'Donnell was Sin Binned as the instigator and King was placed on report for the tackle. From there, the Cowboys lifted and took and eight point lead into half time courtesy of a Thurston penalty goal.
Manly started the second half with enthusiasm and were rewarded in the 47th minute with a try to hard working 5/8 Chris Bailey. Bailey did it all on his own, beating several defenders on his way to the line and thus giving his team the boost they needed.
The game hung in the balance until a moment of Thurston magic put a huge dent in the aspirations of the visitors. On the last tackle, the incumbent Kangaroo half back, dummied past rushing defenders and found O'Donnell in a yawning gap. Matt Bowen finished off a neat scoring play. Suddenly the game was gone.
The issue was put beyond doubt, as Bowen grabbed his second try of the night with only moments left on the game clock. The Cowboys had recorded a much needed victory much to the delight of the home fans. Manly on the other hand had maintained their poor run of form without star fullback Brett Stewart. They tried hard, but they lacked the spark that Stewart had provided them in their two recent victories.
Match Details North Queensland Cowboys 26 def Manly Sea Eagles 12 Round 7 - Saturday April 25th, 2009 7:30pm Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium Referee: Gavin Badger & Steve Lyons Sideline: Ricky McFarlane & Adam Reid Video: Sean Hampstead Crowd: 16,153 Halftime: Cowboys 14 Sea Eagles 6 North Queensland Cowboys 26 Tries: Matt Bowen (2), Ben Farrar, Scott Bolton Goals: Johnathan Thurston (5/5) Manly Sea Eagles 12 Tries: Glenn Hall, Chris Bailey Goals: Jamie Lyon (2/2) LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Travis Burns (Cowboys) 2 Points: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 1 Point: Chris Bailey (Sea Eagles) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary COWBOYS: 1. Matthew Bowen 2. Ben Farrar 3. Ashley Graham 4. Willie Tonga 5. Shannon Hegarty 6. Travis Burns 7. Johnathon Thurston (c) 8. Shane Tronc 9. Aaron Payne 10. Antonio Kaufusi 11. Steve Southern 12. Scott Bolton 13. Luke O'Donnell Interchange: 14. Ben Harris, 15. Steve Rapira, 16. Matt Scott, 17. Carl Webb; Reserves: 18. John Williams, 19. James Tamou SEA EAGLES: 1. Michael Robertson 2. David Williams 3. Jamie Lyon 4. Steve Matai 5. Michael Bani 6. Chris Bailey 7. Matt Orford (c) 8. Brent Kite 9. Matt Ballin 10. Josh Perry 11. Anthony Watmough 12. Glenn Hall 13. Glenn Stewart Interchange: 14. Heath L'Estrange 15. Jason King 16. Adam Cuthbertson 18. Shane Rodney; Reserves: 21. George Rose
Welcome to Dairy Farmers. A beautiful night for Rugby League. Both teams looking for a little bit of consistency. Can Manly continue on their winning ways or will the Cowboys make it back to back.
Southern to Bench, Carl webb in for the Cowboys.
We will find out as the game gets underway shortly.
0 min: Kick Off... Lets Rumble!
3 min: Manly try a cross field kick in their own 20 early in the tackle count. Wolfman catches the ball and then passes to Thurston. Woops...
3 min: VIDEO REF- Possible try to Ben Farrar Checking the grounding.
3 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Manly tried to catch the the Cowboys napping with a low percentage play. The Cowboys get the ball and on the last tackle Ben Farrar collects a Travis Burns grubber ahead of Michael Bani. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 6-0
6 min: Cowboys attacking the Manly line after a Penalty to the Cowboys. Promising raid but the ball has been dropped by Southern.
8 min: Great defensive set sees Cowboys kicking on the last just outside their own 20.
9 min: Heggarty drops the ball on his own line. Manly get a Penalty to compound the error. Manly attacking the Cowboys line.
10 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles A simple barge over try from Glen Hall as he runs over the top over Matty Bowen under the posts. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful. 6 all
15 min: Ashley Graham crunches Orford in a tackle as the Sea Eagles were attacking the Cowboys line. Orford drops the ball.
16 min: Burns makes a great break up the middle. No support and is tackled by Bani. No options on the last for the Cowboys. Turn over.
18 min: Southern on for Cowboys King on for Manly.
20 min: Terrific chase by Cowboys as a long range kick sits up in the in goal. Robertson makes the field of play but is driven back in goal.
24 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Repeat set on the Manly line and the the Cowboys moving the ball side to side. Thurston pops up a short ball to Bolten who beats Watmough and carries Robertson over the line Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 12-6
27 min: Manly working out of their own red zone. The Cowboys gaining the ascendancy.
28 min: Bowen kicks out on the full giving Manly good field position.
30 min: BIFFO. A high tackle on Ben Farrar by Jason King. Luke O'Donnell steps in to show his objection by giving him the ol 1-2. Its a melee.... O'Donnell in the bin for punching on. King on report for a high tackle.
33 min: PENALTY GOAL North Queensland Cowboys Penalty for a flop against Manly. Cowboys opt for the two. North Queensland Cowboys 14-6
36 min: Manly attacking the Cowboys line but a poor last tackle kick by Lyons is gathered easily by Heggarty.
38 min: Bowen bomb fielded by Bani. He is then bundled into touch by the Cowboys cover. They are outplaying Manly with a man down.
39 min: VIDEO REF- Checking obstruction on a Matty Bowen try
39 min: NO TRY - Dodgy decision against the Cowboys. Obstruction called by Bumstead Hamstead on Jason King who was no chance of getting Bowen.
And thats Half Time in what has been a quite entertaining First Half. The momentum has shifted a few times in the game, but the Cowboys seem to have lifted a notch since the Sin Binning of O'Donnell. Manly look like they are a player short.
An exciting 2nd Half is on the way.
TAB SPORTSBET - Cowboys $1.33 Manly $3.20
41 min: We're underway. O'Donnell back on in 30 secs.
44 min: Jamie Lyon stands up Heggarty and is brought down just down short. Orford puts in a grubber on the last. The bounce favours the Cowboys.
46 min: Matai crunches Ben Harris and the ball comes loose. Manly on the the attack.
47 min: TRY Manly Sea Eagles Bailey uses great strength to beat a few feeble attempts of tackle by the Cowboys to score under the posts. Conversion attempt by Jamie Lyon successful. North Queensland Cowboys 14-12
49 min: Manly all over the Cowboys at the moment. Attacking the line but their last tackle options have been below their usual standard. Easily scooped up by Farrar.
55 min: Slick backline movement by the Cowboys but the Manly defence is equal to the task. This is becoming a real arm wrestle.
56 min: Webb drops the ball on his own 40. Scooped up by Watmough and he makes 10 before tackled on a zero tackle.
57 min: Again Manly attacking the Cowboys line. Last tackle option by Lyon was lack lustre.
59 min: Cowboys attacking the Manly line thanks to a piggy back penalty. Thurston cross field bomb for Farrar finds its mark. He tries to grubber again but a mish mash of bodies forces a knock on.
62 min: Manly put up a bomb... 3 days later it came down. Bowen looked like a bushwalker without a compass under it. He was always going to knock it on.
63 min: Amazing passage of play... Manly looked certain to score but somehow Matai dropped the ball. Cowboys scooped it up but 2 tackles later they drop it.
64 min: Again Lyon grubbers dead on the last for the umpteenth time tonight. Get outta there son, it aint working for ya!!!
65 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Awesome try. They run it on the last. Thurston with a half break off loads to O'Donnell on the outside, he draws the defender then offloads to Tonga. Tonga takes the fullbacks tackle but off loads to Bowen who scores adjacent to the uprights. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 20-12
69 min: Another rain bringing bomb. Bowen looks far more comfortable under that one. He also earns a penalty.
71 min: Thurston has taken control of this match. Hes controlling the tempo with his kicking game.
74 min: Manly give easy ball to Cowboys on their 30 metre line. Cowboys can end it here.
77 min: Manly giving it everything theyve got on the Cowboys line. Last tackle option was once again terrible.
79 min: Last throw of the dice for Manly. They cant break this Cowboys team.
80 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Chip over the top by Thurston, caught by a flying Matt Bowen. The Manly defenders clear a passage for him to motor over the line. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 26-12
And thats full time. The Cowboys have run away with this. The early part of the 2nd Half was a real arm wrestle with neither side able to get over the top. Thurston took the game by the horns in the latter stages, orchestrating the Cowboys final two tries.
For Manly, well its back to the drawing board. The looked a little lost late in the tackle counts. They lacked spark, something Brett Stewart had given them in their two wins. They need to regroup quickly and find a way to win without him.