North Queensland have come back from a poor first half to defeat a depleted Newcastle Knights side 36-16 at Queensland Country Bank Stadium and maintain their place as one of the most improved teams in 2022.
Newcastle was up against it with four changes midweek, before a gameday withdrawal of Tyson Frizell with a 'non-COVID' illness. Their start was appalling with poor discipline leading to the game's opening try. Tom Dearden continued his great form by taking the ball to the line and with momentum, Dearden found the line and with Holmes conversion, the Cowboys had an early lead.
Newcastle worked their way back into the game and thanks to the magic work of Kalyn Ponga, he tapped it onto Dom Young and the winger crossed for the Knights first try in 193 minutes. Ponga's missed kick saw them trail by two points. Fifteen minutes later, a lovely ball from Scott Drinkwater over the head of Edrick Lee found Kyle Feldt and Feldt continued his recent try-scoring form to lead 12-4. Newcastle had the perfect entry into half-time with two quickfire tries. First was when Ponga placed a perfect grubber kick for Jacob Saifiti which came off the post and the Knights were trailing by just two points. Minutes later, it was a great leadup play from Tex Hoy who got it away to Chris Randall who burrowed over to score and the Knights had a shock 16-12 lead at half-time.
North Queensland had the perfect start to the second half when they piled on two quick unanswered tries in a rather bizarre fashion. Chad Townsend misfired the kick, but Murray Taulagi caught it and went through a gap bigger than Sydney Heads and the Cowboys tied the game back up, with Holmes' conversion, North Queensland regained a slender two-point advantage. Off the next set, no one wanted the ball on the last tackle, but they shifted it right, and the Cowboys hit the Knights with the double whammy. Newcastle fell asleep on the right-hand side and Holmes crossed and converted his try to lead by 8.
Jeremiah Nanai might have a stint on Dancing with the Stars in the off-season, after showcasing his silky skills by stepping past multiple Knights defenders after his trademark bomb take and the Knights were imploding. The Cowboys finished their air-raid when Heilum Luki took an uncontested bomb and ran it around under the post to give us the final score of 36-16.
Newcastle has now lost seven on the trot, they open the NRL's Magic Round when they take on the Bulldogs. Whilst the Cowboys close out the weekend with a dual with the Tigers.