Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
19 hours ago
The Cowboys have returned to form with an outstanding 34-6 victory over the Melbourne Storm in front of 9,554 fans at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Heading into the game the Storm would of been very confident having beaten the Cowboys in their last 8 meetings. The Melbourne Storm were trying to continue their impressive form seen in the opening rounds but they ran into a red hot Cowboys side lead by the maestro himself Johnathan Thurston.
In wet and slippery conditions both sides started the match off with early errors, Bryan Norrie the first culprit in the very first minute which lead to the first real opportunity for points with the Cowboys denied by the video referee in the 2nd minute of the match.
The first try of the night was scored by Cowboys centre Will Tupou who received a lovely ball from Matt Bowen in the 10th minute of the match. The Cowboys continued to apply the pressure as a result of sloppy errors from Melbourne and quickly capitalised 3 minutes later when debutant Faifai Loa made a great break busting pass Cameron Smith and finding the ever reliable Matt Bowen backing up on the inside to give the Cowboys a valuable and stunning 10-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Cameron Smith tried his best to create something out of nothing for the Storm kicking a much needed 40/20 kick in the 20th minute only for his efforts to be wasted after Billy Slater threw a hospital pass to Champion who couldn't handle it only one tackle into that set of six.
The Cowboys kept grinding away towards the half time break with their attack spear headed through the intelligent kicking game of Johnathan Thurston who controlled the tempo of the game which is very important when playing a star studded Melbourne team. But it was Melbourne who finished stronger close to half time after Gareth Widdop skipped past 3 defenders to score a great try from a set move to get the Storm back in the game at half time.
Halftime 10-6 North Queensland Cowboys.
With Melbourne looking dangerous heading into the second half the Cowboys had to start the second half strongly to get the game to swing back into their favour. 12 minutes into the second half Thurston provided his first real magic touches of an amazing second half from him providing a nice ball to Graham for his first of two trys for the night.
Melbournes frustrations continued in attack with a disallowed try to Lowrie who was ruled to not have grounded the ball. Melbourne's frustrations only got worse when the Cowboys were in again after a perfect kick from Thurston wasn't handled at the back by Slater or Cronk and Bowen pounced on it for a double.
Thurstons kicking and passing game couldn't be handled forcing repeat sets tiring out the Storm defence which played a vital role in the Cowboys final two trys with Graham scoring a magnificent cut out pass from Thurston and in the 74th minute Tariq Sims bulldozed his way through some tired Storm defence to blow the scoreline out to 34-6 Cowboys.
Cooper Cronk showed his individual skill to kick a late 40/20 but the Storm couldn't convert that into points in a disappointing error filled night for them.
The Storm have one week to turn it around before taking on the Bulldogs next Monday at AAMI Park, While the Cowboys will be out to show they can string two wins together against the Eels next Saturday night at Parramatta.
North Queensland Cowboys 34 defeated Melbourne Storm 6
National Rugby League - Round 3 - Monday March 28, 2011 7:00pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Tony Archer and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Tim Mander
Touch Judges: Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 10 Melbourne Storm 6
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (34)
Tries: Matt Bowen (2), Ashley Graham (2), Tariq Sims, Will Tupou
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (5/6)
MELBOURNE STORM (6)
Tries: Gareth Widdop
Conversions: Cameron Smith (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to Dairy Farmers Stadium for this round 3 clash between the Cowboys and the Storm. Under pressure coach Neil Henry will be looking for a rare win over Melbourne, they cowboys have lost their last 8 meetings against the storm while Craig Bellamy will be hoping to continue the Storms impressive form. One change for the Melbourne Storm Todd Lowrie comes into the run on side with Hinchcliffe moving to the interchange bench while the Cowboys are as per program.
1 min: We are underway Melbourne have first use of the footy
1 min: Early error in the wet conditions from Norrie, Cowboys first opportunity for points
2 min: Possible Cowboys Try going upstairs to Tim Mander seeing if the Cowboys knocked on
3 min: NO TRY Cowboys denied by the video ref Storm scrum 10 metres out from their line
4 min: Melbourne off the hook with the first penalty of the night deep in their half
9 min: Melbourne making a few errors allowing the Cowboys possession inside their own half and then give away a penalty for a ruck infringement Cowboys on the attack
10 min: TRY
Bowen throws a nice ball for Tupou to score who did a good job to put it down and not get held up. Melbourne give in to the pressure. solid start for the Cowboys. Conversion no good from Thurston
North Queensland Cowboys 4-0
13 min: TRY
Amazing try for the Cowboys. The man on debut Faifai Loa runs straight through Cameron Smith and finds the support of Bowen who strolls over for an amazing try. The conversion is right over the black dot from Thurston.
North Queensland Cowboys 10-0
15 min: The pressure continues to build on the Storm. Good set after points for Cowboys earning a penalty to get back in the Storms half
17 min: Cowboys might be in again. Just checking to see if he planted the ball down legally and in the field of play
18 min: NO TRY Cowboys. Justin O'Neill is ruled to have knocked on whilst trying to plant the football down. Would of been a great put down.
20 min: Cameron Smith kicks a nice 40/20 to relieve the pressure for the Storm.
21 min: Billy Slater throws a bad ball to Champion who knocks on first tackle after the 40/20 Bellamy and Smith cannot be happy.
22 min: A high tackle from Cowboys' Glen Hall leaves Anthony Quinn on the ground but he will be okay.
23 min: Another mistake from Melbourne in their own half gives the Cowboys the advantage. Storm now have a 6/12 completion rate (50%).
25 min: Players starting to struggle with ball control in the slippery conditions with Tupou the next player guilty of an error. Storm off the hook.
26 min: Some positive signs from the Storm dragging Willie Tonga into touch giving them another chance to reduce this 10 point deficit.
27 min: Great defence from the Cowboys in a set which included dragging Kevin Proctor back 15 metres and on the last tackle forcing an error knocking the ball out of Sika Manu's hands who was over the try line!
30 min: Bowen crunched in a tackle earns a penalty for his team. Cowboys 20 metres out from Storm's line.
31 min: Melbourne hold the Cowboys up on the last and survive another raid.
32 min: The Melbourne storm looking rattled being 10-0 down trying to play dry weather footy in the wet trying to find a way through this Cowboys line resulting in errors. Cowboys on the attack.
35 min: Dane Nielsen in a bit of trouble injured in back play he is being attended to now on the side line. He seemed to of copped a boot from Glen Hall.
36 min: TRY
Great set move from the Melbourne Storm sees their english international Widdop skip past 3 defenders to score a lovely try! Just what the Storm needed 4 minutes out from half time. Cameron Smith's conversion from the sideline is a beauty what a kick it is windy and rainy and he nailed it
North Queensland Cowboys 10-6
40 min: Half Time. Cowboys 10-6 Storm. Solid start from the Cowboys. Last Monday produced a massive upset are we in for the same tonight!
41 min: Second half underway. News from the sheds is that Nielsen will not be back and Proctor has a suspected fractured cheek bone.
42 min: First penalty of the second half goes to Melbourne. Ref ruled that the Sims stripped the ball one on one after the tackle was completed
43 min: Sika Manu is down with an injury to his left leg. More injury concerns for Melbourne. Manu is taken off the field very slowly and the Storm bench is only down to one fit man!
46 min: Melbournes ball handling starts off the same as the first half but a nice hit from Ryan Hinchcliffe knocks the ball out of the Cowboys hands. Storm scrum.
52 min: TRY Northern Storm
The pressure has told on the Storm, repeated sets for the Cowboys and it's Ashley Graham who scores - we could be headed for a boilover here!
North Queensland Cowboys 16-6
55 min: Possible Storm Try to Todd Lowrie just checking if he got the ball down
55 min: NO TRY- Lowrie didnt plant the ball down
57 min: Desperate scramble defence keeps the Cowboys firmly on the front foot in this match. Still 16-6 Cowboys
58 min: Kevin Proctor back on the field with a stitched up cheek. Troy Thompson sent to the blood bin to continue the Storm's trainers busy night.
61 min: Johnathan Thurston is really controlling the pace of the game with another nice kick which dribbles over the sideline for a scrum giving the big forwards a breather.
65 min: Nice run from Ray Thompson gives Cowboys the advantage tackle two and 20 metres from the Storm's try line.
66 min: Possible Try Cowboys checking onside and grounding.
67 min: TRY
TRY! Matt Bowen scores under the posts off the back of a nicely placed kick from Johnathan Thurston which wasn't cleaned up by Slater or Cronk. Thurstons kick from in front is slotted over.
North Queensland Cowboys 22-6
69 min: The Cowboys get a repeat set thanks to yet another perfect kick from Thurston. Cowboys keep the pressure piling!
71 min: TRY Northern Storm
TRY! Cowboys winger Ashley Graham scores a double! what a pass from Thurston he is really running the show tonight! Conversion from the sideline is equally as good.
North Queensland Cowboys 28-6
73 min: Bromwich penalised for a strip. Can the Cowboys stroll in for another?
74 min: TRY
TRY! Cowboys in again. Bruising run from Tariq Sims which Widdop and Hinchcliffe couldn't defend allows him to score the Cowboys sixth try of the night. Thurstons kick is another beauty!
North Queensland Cowboys 34-6
79 min: Terrific 40/20 kick from Cooper Cronk gives the Storm one last chance to score
80 min: Graham knocks on trying to intercept a Slater pass. Still one last chance to score for Melbourne.
80 min: FULL TIME! Cowboys have beaten the Melbourne Storm by an impressive 34-6 win. The Cowboys were simply outstanding tonight whilst Melbourne have some work to do before they meet the Bulldogs next Monday night.