From possession to run metres and more, the Cowboys dominated the Raiders on Saturday night, highlighting the Green Machine’s tenacity to take the game into golden point.
Coach Ricky Stuart echoed those sentiments in the post-match press conference.
“They had enough possession, and they had enough play go their way tonight, and should have beaten us by four or five tries,” Stuart said.
“It was an amazing effort from my team. I’m so proud of them.”
Stand-in captain Josh Hodgson, second-row Josh Papalii and centre Joey Leilua were stand-out performers in the side’s 20-16 loss, impacting in both attack and defence.
Hodgson was a brick wall in defence, completing 43 tackles to record the most from both sides. Meanwhile, the dummy half executed two try assists, including a deft grubber to set up Leilua for his second try.
It only took Papalii a tick over 11 minutes to make his presence known, bustling through for a line-break to put fullback Zac Santo over for a four-pointer. Like Hodgson, the 114-kilogram wrecking ball also absorbed a lot in defence, completing 42 tackles.
Leilua not only bagged two tries, but churned out 135 metres and a line-break.
Winger Nick Cotric and forward Dunamis Lui turned in notable performances on debut, Cotric playing all 84 minutes and Lui making his impact felt in the 25 minutes he played off the bench.
Cotric ran for 151 metres, the second-most for the visitors, but it was a stunning 70-metre run that had Raiders fans on their feet. The 18-year-old intercepted a Michael Morgan pass in the 48th minute before hurtling down the left wing, only to be chased down by halfback Johnathan Thurston.
Meanwhile, Lui burst off the bench to complete 20 tackles.
The Cowboys dominated the possession 59 to 41 per cent, while they also recorded 1852 metres to the Raiders’ 1381.
The hosts also only registered 247 tackles, compared to the Raiders’ 358, highlighting the amount of time the visitors spent in defence.
Interestingly, the Raiders recorded more kicking metres, producing 465 to the Cowboys’ 318, indicating the powerful boots of Hodgson, Austin and Sezer.
The Cowboys won the penalty count, conceding four to the Raiders’ 11.
*Statistics provided by ProZone Sports.