The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have staged a successful Sydney raid with a 30-14 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium tonight.
Led by five-eighth Michael Morgan and his sublime short kicking game – he delivered four try assists from kicks – the Cowboys’ 18-0 half-time lead proved the vital difference as a late Bulldogs rally and some poor discipline threatened to turn the game into a cliffhanger.
It took only three minutes for the Cowboys to come under severe pressure when winger Kerrod Holland looked to have crossed in the right-hand corner.
The try was sent upstairs after being awarded on the field, but was overturned by the bunker after an obstruction was found one position in from where the try was scored.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the Cowboys would march down the other end of the field with their core forwards showing huge intent with every run.
With space opening up on the edges and with the team 15m out, five-eighth Michael Morgan showed tremendous vision and skill to land a cross-field kick on a dime for winger Kyle Feldt, who stepped inside winger Brett Morris to score his first try of the season.
Playing arguably his best half of footy in 2017, Morgan could do no wrong in the first period, the dynamic pivot showing intent with every run and kicking sharply at the end of sets.
It was his running game that shone in the 25th minute as the Townsville product burst through for a 10-0 lead, with Ethan Lowe calmly slotting the extra for a handy lead with the half ticking down.
But the visitors in general – and Morgan in particular – weren’t done yet, with the classy No.6 putting through a neat kick into the in-goal, which bobbled and fell for young back-row behemoth Coen Hess to claim a seventh try of the year in 10 games.
An 18-0 lead going into the main break was a massive confidence booster for a team down on recent form and troops, with dead-eyed back-rowing kicker Ethan Lowe making it 20-0 soon after the break with a long-range penalty.
HESS HE CAN
With Morgan and returning fullback Lachlan Coote pulling the strings, the Cowboys continued to look dangerous, and it was young firebrand Hess who was again johnny-on-the-spot with a simple put-down from another Morgan grubber kick.
Hess, 20, is the Cowboys’ leading try-scorer in 2017 and has 13 tries from 19 NRL games to his credit.
The Cowboys lost their way in the middle of the second half, as Bulldogs winger Kerrod Holland scored out wide twice and durable halfback Ray Thompson was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes after the team repeatedly fell foul of referee Matt Cecchin.
A third Bulldogs try – to interchange player Danny Fualalo – had the hosts to within two tries of their opposition.
But a fourth try from a Morgan kick – this time to hardworking interchange forward Ben Spina – sealed a sixth win of the year for the Cowboys and a re-entry into the top eight.
NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 30 (Coen Hess 2, Kyle Feldt, Michael Morgan, Ben Spina tries; Ethan Lowe 3 goals, pen. goal, Feldt goal) def CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 14 (Kerrod Holland 2 tries; Danny Fualala tries; Holland goal) at ANZ Stadium.