Cowboys lift to celebrate milestone occasion
IT WAS a renewed attitude and urgency shown by the North Queensland Cowboys as they marched over the top of the Parramatta Eels.
In front of a raucous 12,493 Cowboys fans, the home side was dominant in the middle third of the field as veteran Matt Scott led from the front.
All of the Cowboys starting forwards made over 100 running metres, with the barnstorming Jason Taumalolo running for more than 200m for the third straight game.
But it was the never say die attitude which Paul Green bred into his players this week that came to the fore as the home side had to come from behind in the final stages to seal the victory.
The Cowboys lost ben Hampton in the opening minutes with a bicep injury causing a reshuffle to the backline with Mitch Dunn taking up a spot at right centre.
The Cowboys veteran Matt Scott crashed across the stripe for the first try of the night off a short ball from Cowboys dummy-half Granville.
Michael Morgan continued to probe in behind the line with a kick intended for a rampaging Coen Hess before Clint Gutherson made the last-minute save batting the ball over the dead ball line.
But the Cowboys still looked likely as the big men continued to push their authority in the middle third of the field.
Scott was denied a second try midway through the half after he stormed through a wide gap off a ball from John Asiata.
But it was deemed an obstruction by the video referee after Scott caught the ball on the inside shoulder of his lead runner.
A Jordan Kahu error at the back led to the Eels first points of the night after Brad Takairangi swarmed on the loose ball after Kahu struggled to control a bobbling grubber kick.
It was a let off for the visitors who had appeared troubled in the first half, losing the battle of the middle of the field to a strong Cowboys pack.
A penalty for the Cowboys eight minutes before halftime appeared a straightforward assignment for Kahu, but the fullback hit the upright putting the ball back in play and giving the Cowboys a set of six on the Eels line.
A slick Jason Taumalolo led a shift across the face of goal and appeared to have put milestone man Kyle Feldt in for a try but in a case of deja vu for the home side it was called back by the video referee after the lock had caught the ball on the inside shoulder of the lead runner.
It would be one of the final plays of the half as the sides headed to the sheds all locked up at 6-6.
The Cowboys picked up where they left off after the main break putting immediate pressure on the Eels defensive line as they worked themselves into an attacking position.
But the home side would be stung against the run of play by Eels centre Josh Hoffman who snared an intercept before charging down field to score a 90m solo effort and take the lead for the first time in the game.
Despite their continued efforts through the middle of the field, the Cowboys would be let down when it mattered most with poor fifth-tackle options throughout the middle stages of the second half.
It would take a bit of starch in defence for the Cowboys to turn the tide with forward Jordan McLean forcing an error from the Eels inside their own half.
Off the ensuing set the home side would level the scores after a slick backline play found its way to Feldt as the winger celebrated his 100th game in style. But it was the final catch and pass from makeshift centre Mitch Dunn which made the play and sent the winger over in the corner.
Kahu had a chance to put the Cowboys in front in the dying stages with a conversion attempt from the sidelines but pushed the kick across the uprights to set up a thrilling final 10 minutes.
Both sides traded shots at each otherâ€™s goal lines, but it would take an unforced error from the Eels on a kick return to open the door for the Cowboys.
It would be all the invitation centre Tom Opacic needed as he burrowed his way across the line from dummy-half to give the home side a six point buffer.
Kahu would seal the victory for the Cowboys with a crafty field goal after switch play back across the ruck from Morgan.
The Eels would get one last opportunity after captain Clint Gutherson broke through the line and put a late kick through, but it was the urgency that the home side had showed all night that would come to the fore as Morgan and Feldt chased down the ball to put it in touch and sealed the win.