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Cowboys notch up fifth win

Gavin Cooper © NRL Photos
Gavin Cooper © NRL Photos

After a shaky fortnight, the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have posted another win in season 2017 with a 24-12 triumph over the Newcastle Knights in Townsville.

Down 12-10 at the half-time break, tries to teen fullback Kalyn Ponga and centre Kane Linnett, coupled with stout defence, shut the visitors out in the second period.

In a moving night of reflection and commemoration – as the club paid early tribute to Anzac Day – the Cowboys showed patches of true grit and courage to secure a fifth win following consecutive losses over the past fortnight.

OUT OF THE BLOCKS

The Cowboys started by far the better of the teams, and at one point were relishing almost 80% possession.

That sheer weight of ball eventually manifested itself on the scoreboard when skipper Gavin Cooper snuck over from dummy half, the wily veteran throwing a slight head fake to free up all the space he needed to spear over the line.

The hosts had an earlier chance to cross when Coen Hess spilled the ball with the line wide open in front of him and only 15m out, but at least the Cowboys were creating early chances due to high completion rates, something they fell well short of achieving against the Dragons last start.

KNIGHT SHIFT

Despite having all the early field position and possession, the Cowboys found themselves trailing at the 21-minute mark as winger Nathan Ross and fullback Brendan Elliot crossed within four minutes of each other, Elliot’s effort a length-of-the-field affair that started from all ill-timed Gavin Cooper kick.

The home side would bridge the gap to 12-10 down at half-time after Ponga crossed for the first of a double, the youngster showing speed and savvy finishing skills to stay low and dive over after a sharp ball from Ray Thompson.

OFF THE MARK

Needing a strong start to the second half, the Cowboys showed improved intent – intent that was soon converted to points as Kane Linnett muscled over at the 47-minute mark.

The try was the first from any of the Cowboys four first-choice centre/wingers for the season, and came at the perfect time as North Queensland started to wrestle the match away from the plucky Knights.

THE KID

In arguably his strongest game of a fledgling NRL career, Ponga showed acute game sense in the 62nd minute for a perfectly timed run of a set move as John Asiata poured him through a hole for the game-clinching try.

The 19-year-old has scored three tries in seven games to date, and has been growing in confidence with each outing, a key try-saving tackle in the second half further adding to his growing stature.

The youngster was awarded the Anzac Medal for man-of-the-match.

WASHUP

The result means the Cowboys stay firmly in the top eight with five victories from eight matches.

For many reasons, it’s a vital win, but chief among these is that the traditional State of Origin period – where the team can expect to lose a handful of players – is looming.

Next Friday, the team hosts the Parramatta Eels before the representative weekend bye, with Green loving to have gone through nine rounds with a 6-3 win-loss record.

And with injured first-grade regulars including Johnathan Thurston, Shaun Fensom, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville due back in the coming weeks, things are starting to look rosier for a team that, before tonight, dropped consecutive matches.

NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 24 (Kalyn Ponga 2, Gavin Cooper, Kane Linnett tries; Ethan Lowe 2 goals, Kyle Feldt 2 pen. goals) def NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 12 (Nathan Ross, Brendan Elliot tries; Brock Lamb 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 13,878.