The Toyota Cowboys slipped to a third straight NRL loss when they gave up a half-time lead to lose 13-12 against the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
Tries to Titans backs Kevin Gordon and David Mead, both converted by Greg Bird, plus an Aidan Sezer field goal, were enough to hand the Coast their third win of the year after they trailed 6-0 at the break.
North Queensland were once again let down by their own poor execution in attack as they were kept scoreless for 73 minutes between an early Johnathan Thurston try and an after-the-siren four-pointer by fellow co-captain Matt Scott.
The Cowboys took an unchanged 17-man squad into the round four clash with Joel Riethmuller sitting out as 18th man. With William Zillman (hamstring) ruled out for the Titans, David Mead switched to fullback with Anthony Don called up to play on the wing. Ben Ridge was left off the six-man bench named on Tuesday.
The Cowboys had the better scoring chances in the first half but were only able to convert them into six points – a Johnathan Thurston try coming from a pat back of a high ball by Brent Tate in the seventh minute.
JT converted and that was it as far as points went until the break.
Errors in their attacking zone – a problem that has appeared in every game so far this season – again hampered the Cowboys’ efforts to put a bigger gap between themselves and a Titans team who defended doggedly but were kept well in check in attack.
Their disappointing completion rate of 68% (15 from 22) was bang on their season average.
The Titans thought they had managed a try midway through the half when winger Anthony Don touched down but referee Adam Devcich opted to send the final decision upstairs.
Replays revealed Thurston was obstructed in defence in the lead-up, Devcich’s on-field try call was reversed and the Cowboys’ lead stayed at six.
There was a scare late in the half for North Queensland when Albert Kelly blocked a Thurston kick but Cowboys fullback Michael Morgan showed great speed to beat the Coast No.7 to the ball 10m out and then scampered 40m to put his team on the front foot.
With rain falling, North Queensland’s lead evaporated within three minutes of the restart – Kevin Gordon grounding an Aidan Sezer high ball that Michael Morgan was unable to hold on to.
Greg Bird’s conversion levelled it up at 6-all.
After that setback, the Cowboys had two opportunities down their right side to take the lead back but both ended up being let-offs for the Titans.
Brent Tate put a foot on the sideline before he could ground the ball and Kyle Feldt lost possession in the middle of one his trademark flying dives as Kevin Gordon applied the pressure in covering defence.
With the Cowboys error count continuing to mount, their under-pressure defence could only keep them level for so long.
Eventually it was a grubber kick into the in-goal, spilled by Kyle Feldt, that led to David Mead’s try to put the home team in front for the first time with 15 to go.
Bird’s conversion followed by an Aidan Sezer field goal left North Queensland seven behind.
After a dismal night with their handling (the final completion rate dropped under 60%), the Cowboys turned it all around when it was too late, producing the try of the game in the 80th minute.
The full-time siren had sounded before a string of offloads and passes ended up with Matt Scott bouncing off a tackle and getting across the line for his first NRL try since round three in 2012.
The one-point losing margin followed four-point defeats against Brisbane and the NZ Warriors.
COWBOYS: 1. Michael Morgan 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Brent Tate 4. Kane Linnett 5. Antonio Winterstein 6. Johnathan Thurston 7. Robert Lui 8. Matthew Scott 9. Rory Kostjasyn 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Jason Taumalolo 13. Tariq Sims. Interchange: 14. Ray Thompson 15. Glenn Hall 16. Ashton Sims 17. Scott Bolton.
TITANS: 5. David Mead 2. Kevin Gordon 3. Brad Tighe 4. Brad Takairangi 20. Anthony Don 6. Aidan Sezer 7. Albert Kelly 8. Luke Douglas 9. Beau Falloon 10. Nate Myles 11. Greg Bird 12. Dave Taylor 13. Ashley Harrison. Interchange: 14. Matt White 15. Luke Bailey 16. Mark Minichiello 17. Paul Carter.
Cowboys 12 (Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott tries; Thurston 2 goals)
Gold Coast 13 (Kevin Gordon, David Mead tries; Greg Bird 2 goals; Aiden Sezer 1 field goal)