Clifford the hero as Cowboys shock Roosters
North Queensland have kept their finals hopes alive with a shock 15-12 win over the Sydney Roosters in Gosford.
Young halfback Jake Clifford emerged the hero in the absence of Michael Morgan as he finished with a try, two goals and a vital field goal that broke a 12-all deadlock with less than a minute left on the clock.
The win ended a three-match losing run and moves the Cowboys to 16 competition points with eight rounds remaining.
It also capped off a memorable 300th NRL game for veteran back-rower Gavin Cooper.
In a thrilling finish, Cooper Cronk missed two field goal attempts while Luke Keary also sprayed his chance.
Clifford also narrowly missed his first two cracks before a wobbly 33m attempt finally broke the deadlock.
Clifford then landed a final penalty goal to secure a massive win for the Cowboys.
It was Jake Friend's first match since he suffered a biceps injury in the Roosters' Anzac Day win over St George Illawarra.
But the inspirational skipper's return didn't end the way he would have wanted it to after a clumsy forward pass from dummy half to Victor Radley led to Clifford's field goal.
Friend had earlier sparked the premiers when he snapped a 40/20 kick in the 51st minute followed soon after by a try when he took off from dummy half and stepped through tried defence close to the line.
Brett Morris was next to score when he backed up a terrific defensive first half effort with a vital try in the 60th minute to put the Roosters ahead for the first time in the match.
But the Cowboys refused to go away and when John Asiata crossed it locked the scores heading into the final 10 minutes before Clifford stepped up.
Clifford also scored a good first half try as the Cowboys went to the break leading 6-0.
With James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner rested after State of Origin, the Roosters were held scoreless at halftime for the first time this season.
JWH IN MORE STRIFE
The other big negative to come out of the game was that Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be in strife after being placed on report for an ugly head contact incident involving Josh McGuire.
The Roosters enforcer steamrolled McGuire before leading with his head in a second motion.
Waerea-Hargreaves copped a recent suspension for a similar incident involving Kalyn Ponga back in round 11 and if he is charged could expect to face a couple of weeks on the sidelines.
It's the last thing the Roosters need given they are taking on the Knights at the SCG next Saturday after they were smashed 38-12 in their last clash.
NORTH QUEENSLAND 15 (J Asiata J Clifford tries J Clifford 2 J Kahu goals J Clifford field goal) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 12 (J Friend B Morris tries L Mitchell 2 goals) at Central Coast Stadium. Referee: David Munro, Peter Gough. Crowd: 14,668