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The Manly Sea Eagles are momentarily into the NRL top 4, scoring a scrappy 8-6 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Both teams showed a willingness to spread the ball early in the first half, but it was evident both were playing well below their brilliant best as the opening stanza saw just one try scored. Manly were put on the attack by a Glenn Hall error on halfway, and further pressure was built following a penalty conceeded by Ashton Sims. With the visitors throwing everything at the North Queensland line they held on well, Manly not seeing a real opportunity until Johnathan Thurston batted down a pass in defence 10m out from his line. From the ensuing scrum Kieran Foran collected the ball at the scrumbase, and a big left foot step was enough to get him past Dallas Johnson to score next to the posts. Jamie Lyon kicked the simple conversion, and Manly took a 6-0 lead after 25 minutes of play.
Earlier Tony Williams had claimed a try off a Foran grubber, only to be denied by the video referee - the man upstairs spotting a controversial obstruction by Anthony Watmough on Glenn Hall. The Cowboys made things hard for themselves throughout the half, making twice as many errors as their opponents to put themselves under pressure more often than not. Credit must go to the Cowboys' defence, which for the most part held solid despite the pressure mounted upon it.
The Cowboys started the second half with a newfound attitude, the half-time instructions clear: to use the ball and create second phase play that could be capitalised on by the likes of Thurston and fullback Matty Bowen. Despite the new approach the home side were to hit back through a kick, when Bowen's high kick was left to bounce. Manly's David Williams was impeded by teammate Daly Cherry-Evans' blocking attempts on chasers, and Kane Linnett was on the spot to clean up the scraps and muscle his way over the line despite the attentions of Jorge Taufua.
The errors continued for North Queensland, compounded by their newly-adopted style of attack, and it was a Scott Bolton error in the play the ball that gave Manly their next chance. Brett Stewart joined the line and took Tony Williams' pass, and was pulled down just short of the line by Antonio Winterstein and Brent Tate. The video referee was consulted to determine whether Stewart's momentum had taken him to the line, but the try was instead chalked off for obstruction - the man upstairs ruling Matai's angled run had taken out Tate and prevented him from making a proper tackle.
It wasn't long until the visitors were again on the Cowboys' line, and when Matt Bowen failed to properly diffuse Kieran Foran's grubber, the ball was ruled to have travelled forward into a teammate and Manly were awarded the penalty. Jamie Lyon coolly stepped up to notch the penalty goal, again giving Manly the lead.
It would prove to be a lead the Sea Eagles would never relinquish, as despite the home side piling on the pressure the maroon and white defence held firm. When a passage of scrambling attack in the dying seconds ended in James Tamou's after the siren kick touching by an offside teammate, it was a suitable way to sum up the game for the home side - one where errors had abounded and they had been unable to make anything stick. Neil Henry and Geoff Toovey will have seen plenty to work on in the coming weeks, as their respective teams look to fire at the right time to make their marks on the finals series.
Both sides will now be sweating on the results of the Brisbane Broncos' visit to Canberra tomorrow, with the Broncos capable of reclaiming fourth spot with a win, while a loss would consign them to as low as seventh at the end of the round.
North Queensland Cowboys 6 were defeated by Manly Sea Eagles 8
National Rugby League - Round 22 - Saturday August 4, 2012 7:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Shayne Hayne and Gerard Sutton
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Paul Holland
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 0 Manly Sea Eagles 6
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 points - Kieran Foran (1 try)
2 points - James Tamou
1 point - Jorge Taufua
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening viewers, and welcome to North Queensland for updates of the match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles - the final instalment in what has been an extended Saturday fixture list during Close the Gap round. As always, both teams will be eager for a win - for the Cowboys, to consolidate their top four spot, while a Manly victory would see them leapfrog to fourth momentarily.
In team news for this clash, the Cowboys welcome back Ashley Graham on the wing in place of Kalifa Fai Fai Loa, who has impressed in his short stint in the top grade. A re-shuffle on the bench sees Ray Thompson make his anticipated return at the expense of Anthony Mitchell, while the withdrawal of Ricky Thorby with a hip injury gives Joel Reithmuller another game. For the Sea Eagles Jason King's rib injury has ruled him out, Darcy Lussick moving into the starting side and 18th man Vic Mauro joining the bench.
North Queensland big man James Tamou will make his 150th appearance tonight, all of which have been for the home side.
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Earlier this evening it was the visitors drawing first blood in the NYC U20s, holding out a late Cowboys fightback to prevail 24-22. Nathan Cooper's two tries helped the Sea Eagles to a comfortable lead midway through the second half, and were fortunate shaky goal kicking didn't come back to bite them as the Cowboys comeback fell just short.
1 min: Daly Cherry-Evans kicks off, and Matt Scott takes the first hit-up to get us underway.
2 min: A strong opening set from the Cowboys, Matty Bowen finds touch with his first kick. The Sea Eagles will commence possession 15m out from their own line.
3 min: The visitors are using the full width of the field. Metres are there but the Cowboys defence is sliding well.
4 min: In fact both sides have decided the fine Townsville night is conducive to some flowing football. Another good Cowboys kick has Manly again working it off their line. 5 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Manly are penalised for hands on the ball in the tackle. The Cowboys will attack from about 25m out - first real chance.
6 min: David Williams and Brett Stewart ensure Antonio Winterstein is taken into touch 5m out, and the Sea Eagles will work the ball out off the scrum.
7 min: Knock on North Queensland! A Steve Matai special in defence on Glenn Hall forces the turnover, and Manly will attack from 10m out.
9 min: Matty Bowen flawlessly reads a Daly Cherry-Evans grubber, and the Cowboys survive their first real test.
9 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Tony Williams is penalised for being too slow to clear the ruck. The Cowboys will start their set on halfway.
10 min: Knock on North Queensland! Dallas Johnson came up with the error, and Manly immediately counter-attack down the left.
11 min: A possible try to Tony Williams will be investigated by the video referee. An obstruction by Anthony Watmough on Glenn Hall is under scrutiny.
11 min: NO TRY! Penalty to North Queensland! The try is scratched off for an obstruction by Anthony Watmough. The pressure on North Queensland is relieved for now.
13 min: Knock on North Queensland! Manly offload just in their attacking half, and Johnathan Thurston sees an opportunity to pounce on the ball, but has knocked it on. Manly will start their set just over half way.
15 min: Matt Ballin grubbers for himself, but the kick is too strong and the Cowboys survive again.
17 min: Penalty to Manly! Brent Tate is penalised for hanging around too long in a tackle. Manly start their set on their own 40m line.
18 min: Jamie Lyon puts boot to ball, dribbling the ball into the in-goal behind Antonio Winterstein. The Cowboys winger kicks it dead under pressure from Lyon and David Williams, and Manly will go back on the attack.
20 min: Matt Ballin again kicks for the in-goal, this time it bounces up for Matt Scott and the Cowboys survive again.
20 min: Kane Linnett makes a break off a Matty Bowen pass, leaving David Williams in his wake. Johnathan Thurston chips to the in-goal, and Brent Kite grounds the ball. Cowboys will go back on the attack from the drop-out.
22 min: Matty Bowen grubbers straight to Kieran Foran, and Manly survive to work it out from their line.
No score as yet midway through the first half. Both sides have had numerous sets on the opposition line, but apart from one try chalked off for Manly there have been no real chances as yet.
23 min: Knock on North Queensland! Glenn Hall puts it down just inside the Manly half, and the Sea Eagles will attack off the scrum.
24 min: Penalty to Manly! Ashton Sims concedes the penalty for holding on in the tackle. Manly again mounting pressure 10m out.
25 min: Knock on North Queensland! Johnathan Thurston knocks down a pass, pressure increasing.
25 min: TRY
TRY Manly Sea Eagles! The visitors draw first blood tonight! Kieran Foran collected the ball from the scrumbase, and a big left foot step left Dallas Johnson clutching at air. Lyon knocks over the conversion from beside the posts.
Manly Sea Eagles 6-0
28 min: Daly Cherry-Evans burst down the short-side, and looked to have Johnathan Thurston covered for pace. Antonio Winterstein was able to push him into touch.
28 min: Michael Morgan makes a half-break, the Cowboys are attacking the Manly line on tackle five.
29 min: Ash Graham and Gavin Cooper try to keep the ball alive off the kick, but it dribbles into touch. Manly work the ball out from 10m off their line.
30 min: Johnathan Thurston knocks a George Rose offload to his own players, and the Cowboys gain possession in good position.
31 min: Matty Bowen's stabbing grubber forces David Williams to bat the ball dead. The Cowboys starting to mount some pressure.
32 min: Matt Bowen beats several Sea Eagle defenders cutting back inside, but is ruled to have lost the ball centimetres from the line.
33 min: Knock on Manly! Joe Galuvao fumbles the ball looking for a quick play. Cowboys again on the attack.
34 min: Knock on North Queensland! Errors really starting to hurt the Cowboys, as Thurston loses control of the ball into an opposition player.
38 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Another play the ball infringement will give the Cowboys some field position.
40 min: Ray Thompson's grubber is overrun by attackers and defenders alike, and Manly will have final use of the ball for the half from a 20m tap.
43 min: Much like the first half, both sides are starting the half with some adventurous play - the Cowboys have become off-load happy, while Manly continue to use the width of the pitch.
44 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Darcy Lussick is placed on report for a nasty high shot on Ashton Sims - a square-up gone wrong. The Cowboys will attack from 20m out.
45 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Manly line defence is called offside. North Queensland will have a full set on the Manly line.
46 min: Matty Bowen again goes close, pulled down inches short by Brett Stewart.
47 min: Knock on North Queensland! Antonio Winterstein can't take the tap-on from Linnett, off a Thurston-Bowen wrap-around.
48 min: Knock on North Queensland! A suspect pass from Tony Williams is touched by Brent Tate. Manly will resume possession 40m out from their own line.
49 min: Jamie Buhrer's grubber is collected by Johnathan Thurston in cover defence, who does well to narrowly avoid being caught in his in-goal.
52 min: Potential try to North Queensland! Matty Bowen's bomb was left to bounce by David Williams and Daly Cherry-Evans, and Kane Linnett looks to have picked up the scraps and scored.
52 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys! Bowen's bomb floated back and hit Cherry-Evans on the back, and Linnett did well to grab the scraps and score despite the attentions on Jorge Taufua. Johnathan Thurston's conversion attempt is successful and it's all even at Dairy Farmer's Stadium.
Manly Sea Eagles 6-4
56 min: Knock on North Queensland! A spate of offloads creates a disjointed Manly line, but Aaron Payne can't quite reel in a pass from Thurston.
57 min: Knock on Manly! The visitors looked to spread the ball to the right, but Brett Stewart's flick pass to David Williams was around his boots.
58 min: Penalty to North Queensland! Brent Kite's tackle sneaks up around the jaw of Antonio Winterstein. The Cowboys attack from 40m out from the line.
59 min: Matty Bowen's short grubber again finds nought but legs, and Matt Ballin is tackled a metre out from his own line. Manly working the ball out.
61 min: Antonio Winterstein took a kick in his own in-goal, and as he dived to make it back into the field of play has suffered heavy contact from Glenn Stewart.
63 min: Knock on North Queensland! Scott Bolton lost control in the play the ball. Manly back on the attack from 30m out from the line.
63 min: Potential try to Manly Sea Eagles! Brett Stewart swept around the back and took Tony Williams' pass. The video referee is checking double movement and obstruction.
63 min: Penalty to North Queensland! A second potential Manly try is chalked off for an obstruction - centre Steve Matai is ruled to have interfered with Brent Tate's ability to reach Stewart and make the tackle. Cowboys survive again.
65 min: Penalty to Manly! James Tamou concedes the penalty for hands in the ruck on the fifth tackle. Manly will start their attack 35m out from the Cowboys' line.
66 min: Penalty to Manly! The kick is ruled to have come off Matt Bowen forward into Gavin Cooper. Manly receive the penalty for offside and will take the two points.
67 min: PENALTY GOAL
Jamie Lyon makes no mistake with the penalty goal attempt from just to the right of the uprights to put Manly in front.
Manly Sea Eagles 8-6
68 min: Steve Matai has left the field, clutching at a right ankle.
69 min: With just over 10 minutes remaining in this game Steve Matai is seen heading up the tunnel.
71 min: Jamie Lyon kicks out on the full. The Cowboys attack from just inside their attacking half.
72 min: The Manly defence nearly fall over each other scrambling to cover the cross-field kick, and the Cowboys have another 6 on the line.
73 min: Knock on North Queensland! Johnathan Thurston throwing everything he's got at the Manly line, and Matt Bowen puts it down on the last to relieve the pressure.
75 min: Kane Linnett makes good metres down the left off a James Tamou offload. Jorge Taufua takes the cross-field kick in his own in-goal and play will restart from the 20m line.
76 min: Brett Stewart is happy to kick the ball into touch, finding the line 5m out. Cowboys running out of time.
77 min: Ashley Graham made a break down the right on the fourth, but threw the ball away as he headed towards touch. Manly with the ball 20m out from the Cowboys' line.
77 min: Brett Stewart is slow to get up from the tackle, and it's more than gamesmanship as he goes down again.
78 min: Knock on Manly! Daly Cherry-Evans puts it down from dummy half, 30m out from the Cowboys line.
80 min: A spate of offloading on the last play of the game as the Cowboys desperately probe, but James Tamou's kick after the siren is touched by an offside player and that's game over.
That's all from Townsville tonight and that's all for a big Saturday of football action. Congratulations to the Manly Sea Eagles, who have prevailed 8-6 at Dairy Farmer's Stadium.