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A disappointing North Queensland side have triumphed in a scrappy affair at Dairy Farmers' Stadium, effectively ending the Knights' finals hopes for 2012.
The Cowboys had shaped as a premiership contender earlier in the season, but their display tonight was hardly reflective of a team looking to go deep into the finals as they let their opposition back into the game for the second time in six days.
In the end it was a typical story for the DFS faithful: the calm head of halfback Johnathan Thurston and the attacking brilliance of fullback Matty Bowen saw the Cowboys home, sending Aaron Payne off a winner in his final regular season game on the turf he's called home over 11 seasons.
The visitors opened the scoring in just the third minute, James McManus knocking a cross-field kick back into the hands of Robbie Rochow, who danced inside and out before finding Timana Tahu on his outside. Roberts' conversion hooked just to the left of the uprights, and the Knights took an early 4-0 lead.
It didn't take long for the Cowboys to hit back however, stand-in half Anthony Mitchell linking with Johnathan Thurston. The Knights' line opened up for the five-eighth, who sliced through amidst appeals for obstruction by inside runners. These complaints were dismissed, and when Thurston converted his own try the Cowboys had a lead they would never relinquish.
Mitchell showed it was no fluke 12 minutes later, again putting the defence in two minds as he ran across field, this time linking with Bowen out the back. Again the defence misread the situation, parting to allow Bowen to stroll in untouched. Thurston's conversion bounced in off the upright, opening up the lead to 8 points after 20 minutes.
The Knights briefly troubled the Cowboys' line, again the ball coming free from a cross-field kick but Rochow unable to collect it for a try of his own. Just minutes later the visitors learnt the hard way why you don't present a broken line to Matty Bowen, the livewire custodian slicing through the Knights' kick chase from close to his own line. He found Anthony Mitchell in support, and the hooker-come-halfback had his third try assist for the night when he drew fullback Darius Boyd and linked with Brent Tate for the Cowboys' third try. Thurston's conversion was good from in front, and at 18-4 the home side looked like they would run away with the game.
That's where the tries dried up for North Queensland, the Knights hitting back twice in the final 10 minutes of the half to close the gap to just four at the break. First Timana Tahu muscled his way past Brent Tate to find the line for his second, breaking Adam McDougall's record for the most tries in Knights colours in the process. Sustained pressure - including one try disallowed for a knock-on - saw Dane Gagai continue his strong form with a four pointer five minutes later, though Tyrone Roberts' radar was off both times. The sides headed to the break with the Cowboys up 18-14.
A dour second half saw errors and poor defence from both sides, with neither able to capitalise on opportunities. Johnathan Thurston's long kicking game dominated much of the second stanza, the star half ensuring his side kept field position and denied the Knights a chance at their line. The Knights' best chance of the half came from range, Tyrone Roberts, the Knights' best for the night, dummying through the line. The raid was spoiled 25m out from the Cowboys' line, his pass to a marked Tahu knocked down by Ashley Graham and the Cowboys regained posession. It was a similar story for the Cowboys, two big left foot steps from Matty Bowen opening up the Knights' defensive line from 40m out. He exchanged passes with Johnathan Thurston to beat cover defence, but couldn't evade Darius Boyd's try-saving tackle.
Other excitement for the half was provided by Alex McKinnon, who will have a nervous wait for the judicary's judgement on his blow to the back of Antonio Winterstein's head in the 50th minute. Winterstein appeared to be holding McKinnon's leg in the tackle, but seemed to have done nothing untoward to spark the small fight that ensued.
Meanwhile, the only points came to two penalty goals to Johnathan Thurston, the first to extend the lead to a converted try and the second pushing the gap to 8 points - the final margin for the night, the Cowboys running out victors 22-14.
The win momentarily puts the Cowboys into fourth position, with the Rabbitohs requiring a win over the struggling Parramatta tomorrow to reclaim the coveted top-four position and second chance in the finals. The Knights will finish the round in 11th position, their poor differential effectively ending their finals hopes.
North Queensland Cowboys 22 defeated Newcastle Knights 14
National Rugby League - Round 25 - Saturday August 25, 2012 7:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins and Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Bernard Sutton
Touch Judges: Steve Carrall and Chris Butler
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 18 Newcastle Knights 14
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Johnathan Thurston (1 Try, 3 Conversions, 2 Penalty Goals)
2 Points - Matt Bowen (1 Try)
1 Point - Matthew Scott
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (22)
Tries: Brent Tate, Matt Bowen, Johnathan Thurston
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Johnathan Thurston (2/2)
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS (14)
Tries: Timana Tahu (2), Dane Gagai
Conversions: Tyrone Roberts (1/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome rugby league fans to this last installment in a three game Super Saturday for round 25. The North Queensland Cowboys host the Newcastle Knights, with the home side chasing the win to keep faint top four hopes alive while the visitors could still steal a spot in the eight, though it is unlikely.
In team changes for this clash, the Cowboys pack is boosted by the return of young talent Jason Taumalolo, while Blake Leary will make his debut on the bench. Ricky Thorby is out, as too is halfback Michael Morgan, who was concussed last weekend against the Dragons. Anthony Mitchell switches to halfback in the absence of three halves for the Cowboys. Only one minor change for the Knights, with Robbie Rochow starting in jersey 14, Alex Mckinnon reverting to the bench.
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The retiring Aaron Payne leads the Cowboys out in his last home regular season game, and Johnathan Thurston will get us underway tonight.
2 min: Knock on North Queensland! Johnathan Thurston left behind Aaron Payne's pass, and Dallas Johnson knocked it on trying to clean up around his shins.
3 min: TRY
TRY Newcastle Knights!
James McManus knocked Jarrod Mullen's crossfield kick back into the hands of Robbie Rochow, who after a moment of indecision finds Timana Tahu for a walk-in try on the left. Tyrone Roberts' conversion attempt hooks just wide.
Newcastle Knights 4-0
7 min: Knock on Newcastle! Aku Uate drops it in the tackle inside his own half. Cowboys will receive the ball in good position.
8 min: Possibly try to North Queensland! Johnathan Thurston finds a gap in the Knights' armour, but we'll check obstruction with the video ref.
8 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys!
Anthony Mitchell takes the ball off the scrum, and finds Johnathan Thurston three wide who slices through. After recent interpretations the obstruction appeal was never going to be successful. Thurston's conversion is successful.
North Queensland Cowboys 6-4
14 min: A period of hot-potato football ends with an inch-perfect kick from Thurston. The Knights have a line drop out.
18 min: Knock on North Queensland! Dallas Johnson runs across the Knights line, then loses it in the tackle. Knights survive and will work it out from their own half.
19 min: Tyrone Roberts is trapped in his own in goal. The kick came from Aaron Payne, who received the ball from a flick pass from Thurston.
20 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys!
Anthony Mitchell runs across field, the decoy runner on the in-line draws all of the Knights defence and a huge gap opens up for Matty Bowen to score. Johnathan Thurston's conversion is in off the left post.
North Queensland Cowboys 12-4
25 min: Video referee decision on a possible Knights try. The ball is knocked from McManus' grasp, and Rochow looks to have lost control before grounding the ball.
25 min: NO TRY! Cowboys will receive possession 10m out from their own line.
26 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys!
Matty Bowen steps through a jagged kick chase, linking with Anthony Mitchell in support. Mitchell draws the fullback and finds Brent Tate inside for a superb length of the field try. Thurston's conversion from in front is successful.
North Queensland Cowboys 18-4
29 min: Knock on North Queensland! Ashton Sims loses the ball on the kickoff return, the Knights attack the Cowboys' line.
30 min: TRY
TRY Newcastle Knights!
Timana Tahu shows good strength to find the line despite the attentions of Brent Tate. The Knights hit straight back to show they're still in this. Tyrone Roberts' conversion splits the posts.
North Queensland Cowboys 18-10
32 min: A mixup between Bowen and Winterstein sees Dane Gagai come up with the ball 10m out from the Cowboys' line!
33 min: A possible try to Newcastle is being checked by the video referee. Houston looks to have lost the ball forward, and Uate's possible try in the corner will be chalked off.
34 min: Jarrod Mullen's kick into the Cowboys' in-goal is tapped dead by Ash Graham. The Knights will continue to build pressure from the goal-line dropout.
35 min: TRY
TRY Newcastle Knights!
The visitors peg another one back as a shift to the right opens up a gap for Dane Gagai, who muscles past Bowen to score. Roberts' conversion is unsuccessful.
North Queensland Cowboys 18-14
37 min: Knock on Newcastle! Gagai breaks down the left! He finds support inside, but Danny Buderus spills the ball and the Cowboys counter attack.
38 min: Darius Boyd is again caught in his in-goal, courtesy of a wobbling grubber and a good chase from Bowen. The Cowboys will have the opportunity to extend their lead before halftime.
40 min: Knock on Newcastle! Thurston's pass was knocked down on the left, the Cowboys will have 30 seconds to produce points.
40 min: Thurston's long pass looking for Ashley Graham is touched in flight,Graham kicks ahead as the siren sounds and the ball finds touch courtesy of a ricochet off a Knights player. That's halftime.
The Cowboys hold a narrow, unconvincing lead here at Dairy Farmer's Stadium, up by 18 points to 14 at halftime.
It was early points to Newcastle this evening, the U20s clash ending in victory to the visitors 28-4, William Smith featuring heavily with two tries.
41 min: Tyrone Roberts gets us back underway for the second half.
43 min: Thurston's kicking game again finds the Knights' in-goal, on this occasion Boyd returns to the field of play.
44 min: Knock on Newcastle! Thurston went high with the kick this time, and Knights' blockers collided with Cowboys chasers: the net result a Uate knock on. The Cowboys attack from 10m out from the line.
47 min: Thurston finds himself over the line, but is pushed back by strong Newcastle defence!
47 min: The cross-field kick is easily fielded by the Knights defence, and they survive the first scoring opportunity of the second half.
50 min: Brent Tate confronts Alex McKinnon after he strikes Antonio Winterstein in the tackle.
51 min: Cowboys attacking the Knights' line. Thurston's short grubber hits a Knight's legs and Dane Gagai cleans up 10m out from his own line.
52 min: Tyrone Roberts dummies and goes straight through! Tries to link with Tahu outside but Ash Graham knocks the pass backwards.
53 min: A fantastic long kick from Thurston nearly results in a try to a fast-chasing Graham, but McManus saves the day.
54 min: Two big left foot steps from Bowen sees him go straight through! Interchanges passes with Johnathan Thurston on his inside but Bowen is dragged down 20m short.
55 min: The Cowboys can't capitalise on the opportunity, the Knights hold on well.
56 min: Dane Gagai loses the ball backwards in a tackle, but the Cowboys pounce! Renewed pressure from 20m out from the line.
56 min: Knock on North Queensland! Brent Tate attempts an offload to his outside man Graham, but he fumbles the pass.
59 min: Another fine long kick from Johnathan Thurston and good chase from him and Antonio Winterstein trap Darius Boyd 5m out from his own line.
61 min: PENALTY GOAL
Penalty Goal to North Queensland! The Cowboys elect to take the two points and Thurston makes no mistake from right in front.
North Queensland Cowboys 20-14
Despite some exciting play from both sides that penalty goal is the only points of the second half so far. The Cowboys lead by 6 with 20 minutes to go.
64 min: Matt Bowen's kick is too deep, and rolls over the dead ball line. Newcastle will start their set with a 20m tap.
66 min: Tyrone Roberts' swirling bomb is well-placed near the posts. Bowen leaves it to bounces and it fortunately heads for the dead-ball line. The Cowboys in turn will take possession from the 20m line.
68 min: Tyrone Roberts' kick makes a sharp left turn to find touch 15m out from the Cowboys' line.
69 min: Chris Houston is flattened by a head-clash with Gavin Cooper.
69 min: Not a good sight for the Knights, as Chris Houston wobbles from the field under the guidance of medical staff.
70 min: Knock on Newcastle! Tyrone Roberts tries to double-pump the pass, but it's slipped from his grasp. The Cowboys will attack from 35m out.
72 min: PENALTY GOAL
Penalty Goal to North Queensland! Johnathan Thurston knocks over a penalty goal.
North Queensland Cowboys 22-14
73 min: Short kickoff unsuccessful for the Knights, the Cowboys come up with the ball.
76 min: Another great long kick from Johnathan Thurston again catches Darius Boyd in the in-goal. The short drop-out is unsuccessful.
77 min: Knock on North Queensland! Thurston goes for the line runner in Gavin Cooper, but he's lost the ball in the tackle.
78 min: Brent Tate collects a loose Knights pass, the Cowboys are back on the attack 10m out.
78 min: Knock on North Queensland! Bowen is unable to take Thurston's inside pass close to the Knights' line.
78 min: Knock on Newcastle! A strong tackle from Aaron Payne sees Alex McKinnon lose the ball.
80 min: Suitably Aaron Payne takes the last tackle of the game to cap off a try-less second half. Full time sees the Cowboys victorious 22-14.