Paul Vaughanl : NRL Rugby League - Round 1 North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders at 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville, Saturday the 8th of March 2014 . Digital Image by Charles Knight nrlphotos.com

NRL MATCH REPORT: Strong start but Raiders roped in by Cowboys

The Canberra Raiders have narrowly lost their first match of the 2014 NRL season, going down 28-22 to the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.

Despite an early 16-0 lead after three first half try’s the Raiders were unable to hold out the home team, with Jonathan Thurston leading the Cowboys with some brilliant attack.

In some positive signs for the Raiders both Matt Allwood and Shannon Boyd made solid debuts for Canberra, while Terry Campese and Anthony Milford showed some really good signs with the ball in hand.

The Raiders started with rock solid defence, holding out raid after raid from the Cowboys to start their season with some great work without the footy.  

They then had the first opportunity to score when they finally found some strong field position and Anthony Milford exploited the Cowboys defence to send Edrick Lee away for the opening try of the match. Jarrod Croker converted and the Raiders led 6-0.

Milford was back in the action soon after as he chased through a last play dummy half kick from Glen Buttriss, but the video referee ruled that Michael Morgan beat Milford in the race to the ball and the Raiders were denied the try.

It didn’t take long though for the Raiders to get their second this time against the run of play, when Jarrod Croker scooped up a loose ball to run 72m to score. Reece Robinson added the extras for the Raiders and it was 12-0.

The Cowboys looked as if they would get on the board next when Jason Taumalolo provided Jonathan Thurston with a chance to score, but a last ditch effort from Anthony Milford and the Raiders defence held up the Cowboys Captain.

The Raiders extended their lead to 16-0 when Josh Papalii steamed over to score, after he ran onto a nice ball from Terry Campese. Robinson couldn’t add the extras but the Raiders were looking good in attack with three first half try’s.  

The Cowboys opened their account with a try down the right hand edge through Kyle Feldt, as he managed to get the ball after a long range bust which was started by Kane Linnett. Thurston missed the goal and it was 16-4 to Canberra.

Thurston then exploited the new quick tap rule when the Raiders gave away a penalty soon after and he raced away to score as the Raiders defence had their backs turned. He converted his own try and it was 16-10.

A penalty coming out of their own end gave the Raiders a chance late in the half, but the Cowboys defence held and the Raiders went into the sheds at the break with the six point advantage.

The Raiders had the first chance of the second half when Terry Campese put through a nice kick for a dropout, but Jack Wighton couldn’t hold onto the ball as he tried to score in the following set.

The Cowboys were disallowed a try soon after when Kane Linnett dropped the ball over the line as he attempted to score, but then levelled a few minutes later when Gavin Cooper scored as the Cowboys ran the ball late in the tackle count and Thurston converted for a 16-16 scoreline.

Rory Kostjaysn gave the Cowboys the lead for the first time when he scored on the last tackle for the Cowboys, with Thurstons conversion extending the lead by six points to 22-16.

They looked like they would make it three in a row soon after, but an intercept from Reece Robinson prevented that, as he raced 95m to score and reduce the deficit to two points. He couldn’t convert his own try and the Cowboys held a two point buffer.

The Raiders levelled the score when they were given a penalty bang in front and Anthony Milford added the extra two points to bring them level with 12 minutes left.

But the Cowboys scored the match winning try with five minutes left on the clock, after Antonio Winterstein scored in the corner. Thurstons conversion made it 28-22 and that’s where the game ended.  

The Raiders will return home tomorrow to begin preparation for their round two clash with the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium next weekend.