The Toyota Cowboys remain alive in the NRL Auckland Nines thanks to a surprise win by the Canberra Raiders in the final yellow pool match at Eden Park this afternoon.
After losing 28-23 to the NZ Warriors in the best match of the tournament so far, North Queensland needed the winless Raiders to beat Manly and that’s just what they did, and convincingly as well, 18-4.
With the unbeaten Warriors topping the pool on six points, the other three teams were tied on two with the Cowboys advancing thanks to +10 for and against record.
The Cowboys’ clash with the home team went end-to-end and try-for-try in the first half in front of another packed and vocal Eden Park crowd.
A quick tap from a penalty led to the Warriors’ first five points to Sebastine Ikahihifo before the Cowboys hit back via a flying Kyle Feldt who dashed 40 metres before planting the ball in the corner for his second sensational try of the weekend.
After just eight minutes, there were two tries apiece on the board with Antonio Winterstein grabbing his team’s second after shedding two tacklers following a fine offload from Kane Linnett.
A cruel bounce from a kick into the in-goal cost North Queensland a third try – to Ngani Laumape - before half time and they looked to be sunk when the Warriors shot 21-8 clear thanks to another from Ikahihifo with seven minutes remaining.
However a try to Linnett in the corner followed by a converted five-pointer to Zac Santo allowed the Cowboys to fight back to just two down, momentarily silencing the home crowd who had been accustomed to comfortable Warriors' victories.
A second five-pointer from a quick restart after a penalty – this time to Shaun Johnson – shot the lead past a converted try, but the brave Cowboys posted the final points through another Winterstein fending special.
The conversion missed, leaving the teams locked on five tries apiece but the Warriors were winners thanks to their better drop-kicking.
“We wanted to compete the whole game and I thought we did that, just a couple of silly errors and the luck of the bounce, but that’s the way it is,” Cowboy Ray Thompson said.
“Even though (the crowd) were going for the Warriors we got pumped up and it was an unreal atmosphere and good to be here.”