A brave but outclassed North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have fallen 26-12 to a well-disciplined Canberra Raiders side at GIO Stadium tonight.
Without their Origin contingent, the Cowboys showed pluck and skill at times but lacked that killer finish as the Raiders turned a 14-6 half-time lead into the final margin with two second-half tries.
Needing to do all the one per-centers right in a bid to score a crucial win on the road, the Cowboys couldn’t have asked for a worse start to the match.
After defending their first set strongly, the visitors spoiled their first chance in attack when winger Antonio Winterstein made an error off the Raiders’ downtown kick.
With possession quickly back with Canberra, fullback Jack Wighton sliced over out wide on the end of good backline play.
THE TEEN TEARAWAY
It took seven minutes for the Cowboys to respond, as third-gamer Coen Hess put a punctuation mark on the game with a stunning try.
The teen tyro leapt above the pack to latch on to a perfectly placed Lachlan Coote cross-field kick and the visitors were back into the game.
BUT THEN THIS HAPPENED…
Raiders danger man Josh Hodgson proved Johnny-on-the-spot four minutes later when he was the grateful recipient of a well-placed grubber kick that bounced off the uprights, and suddenly the Raiders were back in the lead and enjoying the weight of possession.
The Cowboys were creating plenty of good attacking opportunity through the middle of the field, but play often broke down towards the end of a raid.
A Jarrod Croker penalty rounded out the first half as the home side took a 14-6 lead into the break.
Coming out in the second half full of running, the visitors surged back into the contest as NRL debutante Josh Chudleigh scooted out of dummy half and split the Raiders defence open to get his side to within two points, 18-12.
But, like they did in the first half, Canberra’s response was swift and Wighton’s second and Croker’s second penalty goal had the lead back out to eight points, 20-12.
The Cowboys managed to respond positively with repeated pressure off back-to-back sets with 20 minutes remaining, but the final killer punch didn’t avail itself as Canberra hung tough for a win – capping the results with a late try to halfback Aidan Sezer – that cements their place in the top eight.
The Cowboys are now 11 wins and six losses heading into their second bye and stay precariously in fourth spot on the NRL ladder.
CANBERRA RAIDERS 26 (Jack Wighton 2, Josh Hodgson, Aidan Sezer tries; Jarrod Croker 3 goals, 2 pen. goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 12 (Coen Hess, Josh Chudleigh tries; Ethan Lowe 2 goals) at GIO Stadium, Canberra.