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The Cowboys have overcome a horror first half and 12-0 deficit to finish over the top of the Raiders with an 18-12 victory at GIO Stadium on Thursday night. 

The Raiders cracked the Cowboys at the first opportunity, with Tom Starling darting through a huge hole to cross under the posts untouched just three minutes into the contest. 

Jordan Rapana crossed in the 15th minute off a lovely Corey Harawira-Naera tap-on and it could have been an ugly scorecard had Elliott Whitehead not spilled an attacking Jack Wighton grubber in the Cowboys' in-goal 10 minutes after that. 

Starling goes through untouched

The 12-0 half-time scorecard flattered the visitors but it looked even better when the Raiders invited them to attack with some cheap penalties early in the second, with Heilum Luki crashing through some flimsy right side defence to make it 12-6.

The Raiders continued to replicate their opposition's first-half woes and Val Holmes surged through with a wonderful run following some hot-potato passing in the 62nd minute to level the scores.

The comeback was well and truly on as Jeremiah Nanai raced through on a pinpoint Scott Drinkwater grubber in the 71st in what proved to be the final scoring play of the match.

Match snapshot

  • North Queensland's horror start to the game was perhaps best summarised by one of the most ill-advised captains' challenges ever seen; when Reuben Cotter reefed the ball from Joe Tapine's grasp after a completed tackle in the 23rd minute the team opted to challenge the stripping penalty in what was a very simple decision for the Bunker. 
  • The Raiders had 57% of the ball in the first half, winning the penalty count 8-4 in that time.
  • By fulltime the Cowboys had moved ahead in the possession stakes 51-49%, with Canberra having made 12 errors to North Queensland's 10.
  • Four of those first-half penalties were against teenage Cowboys back-rower Jeremiah Nanai, and two of those were for running through on an attacking bomb and taking out a defender.
  • Nanai showed why he was a man in-demand during his recent contract negotiations in the second half, forcing an error from Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to help create one try then scoring another with a desperate kick-chase. 

Nanai flies through to take the lead

  • Nicoll-Klokstad was subbed off in the 67th minute after limping through the previous set, with Xavier Savage injected at fullback. The rookie No.1 was forced into touch with his first carry and appeared to injure his shoulder in the process.
  • The Raiders' final 15 minutes was their worst of the match, making four errors to one as their opponents finished over the top.

Play of the game

There was plenty to like about Canberra's well-worked second try; a good decoy run from danger man Josh Papalii compressed the Cowboys' goal-line defence before a lovely long ball from Brad Schneider was brilliantly tipped on by Corey Harawira-Naera. Jordan Rapana's one-handed grab was just as good as he did a full 360 to control the ball on his way to the corner to set up what should have been a match-winning lead. 

Rapana extends the lead with some nice hands

What they said

"I'm sick of defending playing 40 minutes of football. The way we started that second half was pathetic. There's some individuals who just didn't start with the way they needed to start the second half to get us back onto the front foot and I'll deal with that when we get back to work." - Raiders coach Ricky Stuart

Canberra Raiders

"Those [errors and penalties] cost us last week too and I thought we addressed it through the week but that first 40 minutes we were doing the same thing. We were able to sharpen up through the second half and put some pressure back on them with field position and ball control and that's why we're here (discussing a win)." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten

North Queensland Cowboys

What's next

The Raiders drop to the bottom four on that result and have a lengthy nine-day turnaround leading into their tough round seven clash against premiers Penrith at BlueBet Stadium next Sunday.

The now fifth-placed Cowboys have an eight-day break of their own leading into next Saturday's Queensland derby against the Titans at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. 

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.