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The New Zealand Warriors have boosted their chances of sneaking into the eight with a 35-18 victory over the sixth-placed North Queensland Cowboys in front of 15,374 fans at Mt Smart Stadium.
With their playing roster completely undisrupted by State of Origin, the Warriors were heavy favourites for the match and got on the front foot early, rushing in three tries in 13 minutes.
New Zealand test halfback Shaun Johnson was a stand out for the home side, creating a try in only the fourth minute for Ben Henry. James Maloney added the extras.
Rookie Konrad Hurrell was true to his reputation as a prolific try scorer in the tenth minute when he muscled his way over the try line. Maloney failed to convert from the right touchline.
Henry claimed his second in the 13th minute courtesy of Feleti Mateo break and a Maloney bomb. Maloney added the extras.
Some good field position on the back of a penalty gave the Cowboys and opportunity to hit back and some crafty work from Matt Bowen put Kane Linnett into a gap and over the try line in the 20th minute. Bowen converted the try from the touch line.
The home side were unwilling to let their early advantage go to waste, as they hit back quickly through former Cowboy Jacob Lillyman who scored in the 27th minute. Maloney added the extras.
Ashley Graham breached the gap in the 37th minute when he went over for a try following back-to-back penalties. Bowen added the extras to reduce the Warriros lead to 10 going into the break.
Despite trailing by ten, it was the Cowboys with all the momentum in the second half, as the dominated the Warriors all over the park.
The Cowboys converted their dominance into points in the 53rd minute through Gavin Cooper who scored on the back of a Rick Thorby break. Bowen added the extras to put the Cowboys within four-points of the lead.
The Warriors looked in all sorts of trouble as the half progressed and their forward pack began to tire, however three back-to-back sets on the back of pin-point attacking kicks from Maloney and Johnson gave the Warriors the advantage they needed before Nathan Friend muscled his way over from dummy half in the 68th minute. Maloney made no mistakes with his conversion attempt.
A break from Hurrell saw the Warriors right on the attack again moments later, Johnson streaked down field, before Lewis Brown took advantage of the scattered Cowboys' defence to score in the 71st minute. Maloney added the extras.
Maloney added to his point total for the match in the 75th minute with a field goal from right in front.
The Warriors were brilliant with the ball in hand for much of the match, the attacking kicks from Maloney and Johnson were on the mark every time, while their excellent in attack this afternoon, their attacking kick from Maloney and Johnson were on the money, while their forwards, and backs frequently broke the Cowboys' line, managing 11 line breaks in total.
As for the Cowboys, they put on a spirited display in the absence of their Origin stars, but were simply out classed.
New Zealand Warriors 35 defeated North Queensland Cowboys 18
National Rugby League - Round 17 - Sunday July 1, 2012 2:00pm
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein and Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Dan Eastwood and Henry Perenara
Halftime: New Zealand Warriors 22 North Queensland Cowboys 12
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS (35)
Tries: Nathan Friend, Jacob Lillyman, Lewis Brown, Ben Henry (2), Konrad Hurrell
Field Goals: James Maloney (1/1)
Conversions: James Maloney (4/5), Shaun Johnson (1/1)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (18)
Tries: Ashley Graham, Gavin Cooper, Kane Linnett
Conversions: Matt Bowen (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good afternoon folks and welcome to Mt Smart Stadium where the New Zealand Warriors take on the North Queensland Cowboys.
We have perfect weather conditions for football in Auckland at the moment where our coaches have announced their updated squads.
Hooker Anthony Mitchell will make his debut for the Cowboys this afternoon, after joining the Cowboys midweek, he comes in for Corey Paterson.
For the home side, Glen Fisiiahi is out of the side and will be replaced by Omar Slaimankhel on the wing.
1 min: Matt Bowen kicks off to bring us underway at Mt Smart.
3 min: The Warriors have been pinned for being off side and the Cowboys will get the first penalty of the match a few metres out from their own line.
4 min: Aaron Payne loses the ball on halfway.
6 min: TRY
TRY! Shaun Johnson find some space and streaks away, he passes to Feleti Mateo before throwing an inside pass to Ben Henry to scores close to the posts. James Maloney adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 6-0
10 min: Warriors are on the attack 10 out after a mistake by the Cowboys.
12 min: TRY
TRY! Konrad Hurrell forces his way over in the corner after the Warriors spread it out out wide. Maloney fails to convert from the right touchline.
New Zealand Warriors 10-0
13 min: Warriors might have another try here.
15 min: TRY
TRY! Feleti Mateo make a break on the fourth tackle before Maloney puts up a towering bomb 35 out, Kevin Locke contests the ball with Bowen. Locke grabs the ball and passes to Henry who scores his second. Maloney adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 16-0
19 min: The Cowboys receive a penalty late in the tackle count just short of half way.
21 min: TRY
TRY! The Cowboys spread it out wide quickly and Kane Linnett just slices through the Warriors' defence and scores. Bowen adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 16-6
22 min: The Warriors get their first penalty of the match just on halfway.
24 min: Shaun Johnson forces a line drop out.
25 min: Slaimankhel is tackled into touch centre-metres out from from the line.
26 min: Joel Riethmuller losses the ball 30 out from his own line and the Warriors will get another opportunity to go on the attack.
28 min: TRY
TRY! Mateo puts Jacob Lillyman into a gap and Lillyman scores under the post. Maloney adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 22-6
31 min: Lillyman is pinned for an incorrect play the ball and the Cowboys will get a scrum on halfway.
32 min: The Cowboys receive a penalty on a few metres out from the line.
33 min: The Cowboys will get another penalty and another set of six.
36 min: TRY Northern Storm
TRY! Ashley Graham scores in the right corner after the Cowboys spread it out wide. Bowen's conversion from the right touchline is successful.
New Zealand Warriors 22-12
40 min: Maloney forces a line drop out and the Warriors will have one last opportunity to go on the attack before the break.
40 min: Simon Mannering is caught with the ball on the last and the Cowboys are off the hook.
41 min: Maloney kicks off to bring us under way in the second half.
44 min: Bill Tupou might have a try here.
44 min: No try! The try was on after Sione Lousi made a break on the fourth tackle before the Warriors decided to run it on the last from 20 out, the ball is spread it out and Tupou's leg goes into touch less than a second before the grounded the ball.
53 min: TRY
TRY! The Cowboys run it on the last from half way, Rick Thorby breaks through the Warriors' defence before offloading to Gavin Cooper who scores under the posts. Bowen adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 22-18
59 min: Locke makes a 60 metre kick return before being tackled a few metres out from the Cowboys' line, Bowen strips the ball and the Cowboys are off the hook.
61 min: Some crazy end to end football going on Mt Smart at the moment. The Cowboys are on the attack at the moment, 30 out on the fourth.
62 min: The Warriors receive a penalty 20 out from their own line. They really needed that as they were struggling to make some yardage.
64 min: Maloney forces a line drop out with a grubber into the in goal on the last. The Warriors are looking very dangerous at the moment.
65 min: Johnson forces a drop out with a deft little grubber into the in goal.
67 min: The Warriors force a third goal line drop out.
69 min: TRY
TRY! Nathan Friend his way over from dummy half and scores under the posts. Maloney adds the extras.
New Zealand Warriors 28-18
73 min: TRY
TRY! Hurrell breaks the line before putting Johnson into space on halfway, Johnson is eventually brought down a few metres out from the try line. Lewis Brown burrows over from dummy half to score in the left corner. Maloney converts from the touch line.
New Zealand Warriors 34-18
74 min: The Warriors are on the attack again after a break from Ben Matulino.
75 min: FIELD GOAL
Maloney takes a shot from 20 out in the centre of the field.
New Zealand Warriors 35-18
78 min: Linnett makes a break after the Cowboys receive a tackle count restart. The Cowbys are ten out on tackle one.
79 min: Mateo takes an intercept metres out from his line.
80 min: Mateo loses the ball 10 short of halfway.
80 min: Maloney dives on a loose ball and the Warriors are off the hook.