The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have left it until the dying seconds of the match to snatch a thrilling 18-14 win over the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
Gavin Cooper’s 79th-minute try down the left side following inspired lead-up play from hooker Jake Granville and fullback Lachlan Coote snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as Manly’s resilient defence finally gave away in the dying seconds of the match.
Both teams scored three tries apiece – with Cowboys co-captain and prop Matt Scott posting an unlikely double – as goalkicking proved the ultimate difference.
Johnathan Thurston slotted three goals from as many attempts and Manly skipper Jamie Lyon hit one of three.
The victory extends the Cowboys’ record-winning streak to nine matches, the team now searching for double-figure consecutive wins against the Parramatta Eels in Sydney on Monday 8 June.
Playing in front of 14,196 fans, the Cowboys got off to a dream start with Scott crossing for the first of his double in the fourth minute.
It was the bullocking front-rower's 13th career try in his 12 seasons at the Cowboys.
Manly had a double try-scorer of their own in Jorge Taufua, with the big winger crossing for near identical four-pointers in the 19th and 40th minutes to give the visitors an 8-6 lead heading into the break.
The closeness in the scoreline was reflected in the half-time stats with the Cowboys completing 17 of 22 sets (77%) and Manly 16 of 21 (76%).
Errors were also close, the Cowboys committing seven and the Sea Eagles six.
It was a different story in the second half as the home side struggled with errors – making nine to Manly’s two – despite regaining the lead in the 55th minute with Scott's 14th career try and second for the night.
It was a stepping, open paddock run which Scott sealed with a dive, to the jubilation of the Cowboys’ faithful, who saw their team up 12-8.
That joy was short-lived though as Manly's Tom Trbojevic put on a show of his own seven minutes later with a successful catch and grounding from a crossfield kick.
Lyon converted from just inside the touchline and the visitors were up 14-12.
Chasing the game from that point, the Cowboys made two crucial errors by kicking out on the full, and it wasn’t until the last play of the match that they secured their ninth win of the year.
Hooker Granville made a searing run to link up with Coote, whose quick play-the-ball allowed Thurston to send Cooper over out wide.
It was 16-14 to the Cowboys before JT slotted the tricky conversion to see the Cowboys maintain their winning run.
The Cowboys (nine wins, three losses) have moved back to second on the NRL ladder, behind Brisbane (9-3) who occupy top spot based on for-and-against.
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys 18 (Scott 2, Cooper tries; Thurston 3 goals) def Manly Sea Eagles 14 (Taufua 2, Trbojevic tries; Lyon goal)