NRL Match Report: Cowboys triumph in second half blitz
After another promising start from Canberra, the Raiders were unable to stop a dominant second half performance from the Cowboys to concede their 11th loss of the season 32-24 on Saturday night in Townsville.
The Green Machine piled on 16 points in the first 20 minutes of the match and looked like causing one of the upsets of the season.
However, silly errors and penalties constantly put their attack on the back foot and the Cowboys were able to take advantage of their good field position.
The Cowboys scored late in the first half and that seemed to be the turning point of the game as they went on to score 28 unanswered points in the second half.
Not many positives came out of the second half performance for the Raiders however a late length of the field try started by Blake Austin allowed Canberra to score the last points of the night.
With both Canberra and North Queensland going the length of the field during their respective sets it was an attaking frenzy eary on. Fortunately for the Green Machine they were the first to score points through fullback Jack Wighton.
Off the back of several penalties going Canberra's way, a set play went out to the far left edge attack where Wighton recieved the ball, he then beat two tackles and outstretched to just place the ball down on the try line. Croker was unable to convert the try as he has been all year so far which left the score 4-0 in favour of the Radiers 12 minutes through.
Canberra then went about extending their lead only two minutes after scoring their first points of the game. After earning a repeat set through good pressure from Jordan Rapana, again it was a set play that went out to the left attack which came through with points.
The ball moved well through the hands out towards the fleet footed Edrick Lee who took advantage of the overlap to score just inside the touchline. Croker was attempting the conversion from a harder position than the last but with the uprights providing a bit of luck he converted the try to give Canberra the 10-0 lead after 17 minutes.
In front of a shell shocked Townsville crowd Canberra then scored their third try of the first half only 20 minutes in.
Another break down the middle off the kick-off provided the Raiders with good attacking field position. A cross field kick from the returning Sam Williams was taken by Wighton, and as he came to the ground he offloaded to an open Soliola who scored next to the uprights.
At 16-0 in favor of Canberra, the Raiders were showing their attacking ability confidently against the second best side in the NRL.
With only seven minutes left for the first half a high bomb dropped by North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote, provided the Raiders with a full set of six inside their attacking 10 metres.
Canberra again earned a penalty, this time infront of the uprights and decided to take the gift two points to extend their lead just before half time to three converted tries.
In what looked like a perfect first half for the Green Machine, an expensive knock on from Jordan Rapana only 15 metres out from their own line proved a potential turning point going into the sheds at half-time. The ball then went through the hands out to Michael Morgan who spotted a gap in the line to dive over the try line.
The usually dead eye Jonathan Thurston missed the conversion attempt and Canberra went into the break leading 18-4.
Desperate defence and great attacking flair saw the Raiders head into the half with a deserved lead, although the boys were dissapointed to have let in a last minute try just before the half-time siren.
The Raiders were put under pressure from constant attacking runs from the Cowboys and another silly penalty conceded by Canberra then allowed North Queensland to score the first points of the second half.
Blake Austin was placed on report for a lifting tackle and the Cowboys went about scoring their second try through Gavin Cooper who powered his way over the try line. A successul conversion from Thurston decreased the Green Machine's lead to 18-10 after 50 minutes of play.
All the good work that Canberra had done for themselves in the first half seemed to be coming undone in the second.
Shillington knocked the ball on inside their own 20 metres which fell into Antion Winterstein's hands, he quickly ran down the sideline and improved the conversion kicking position before placing the ball down.
Thurston converted his second kick of the night to make it only a two point game 18-16 with the Raiders holding onto the slim lead with 30 minutes to go.
The Cowboys quickly turned a deficit into a lead after scoring from their next set from the resulting kick off.
A missed tackle in the middle saw Thurston break towards their try line and a miracle ball thrown by Thurston found its way into the hooker Granville's hands who scored just to the right of the uprights.
North Queensland took the lead for the first time of the night after scoring quick tries consecutively to lead 22-18 after 60 minutes.
What seemed like a dream game for the Raiders quickly turned into a nightmare as the Cowboys then continued to pile on the points in the second half.
As North Queensland earned themselves another repeat set, the ball made its way out to the left edge attack where Winterstein scored his second try of the second half.
With the Cowboys scoring the left five tries consecutively, Canberra looked done and dusted as the lead was extended 28-8 with only 13 minutes left to play.
Canberra then conceded another penalty in front of the uprights, the Cowboys took their chance to make the lead two converted tries 30-18.
With the game slipping away quickly from Canberra they desperately needed a try to get them back into the contest with 10 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately the Raiders were unable to take advantage of the minimal attacking field position they had in the second half and found themselves continually under pressure.
As the time kept ticking down, Canberra again conceded another penalty from in front of their uprights, and the Cowboys took the gift two points to extend their lead.
The Raiders did manage to score a late consolation try through Baptiste after Austin broke free downfield and managed to make his way inside the attacking 10 metres. The ball made its way out to the left where Baptiste took advantage of a tired Cowboys defensive line, and scored just next to the uprights.
As the final siren sounded the scores remained 32-24 in favour of the men from North Queensland.