Round 24, 2007
North Queensland Cowboys 34 def Newcastle Knights 18
The Knights came to play tonight, eager to send their home crowd off on a good note – but their best efforts were no match for the slick Cowboys who even without their big name forwards; made a mockery of the Knights defence to run away winners in a match that seals their Top 4 standing on the NRL ladder for 2007.
A more committed Knights side tried hard to bring the Cowboys down into an arm wrestle – but after some close periods, the Cowboys skipped away. An Ashley Graham intercept in the 55 minute put any Newcastle comeback to and end, after the Knights had a good run of possession and momentum.
When the struggling Knights did manage to get some good ball and field position, they rarely knew what to do. Captain Danny Buderus was able to guide the home side over the try line, through a nice short ball try assist – but on most occasions the cellar dwellers looked lost and overexcited as they reached enemy territory.
Newcastle Knights coach Brian Smith, usually a poker faced professional could be seen riding every play with the Knights. The pressure on Smith and the club obvious as they dug deep to try and grind out an upset win.
To the credit of the Cowboys, they certainly didn’t take their lowly ranked opponents lightly. The North Queenslanders got into Newcastle early, setting up camp several days before the game and showing their mind was clearly on the job. While the home semi final is critical to most sides, the Cowboys need it more than most – with many punters thinking the North Queensland side lacks depth in the forwards with so many of their big men out of action.
Once again the standout for the Cowboys was Matt Bowen. The lively fullback proving impossible to stop from any portion of the field, his light stepping proving hard work for the mostly bulky Knights lineup. Again Bowen was decisive in defence, making good decisions at critical times and snuffing out occasional Knights raids. The Cowboys played enterprising Rugby League, having success on the fringes and mostly capitalising on Knights errors.
The win by the Cowboys tonight sets up a blockbuster final round clash with the Bulldogs at Diary Farmers Stadium next week.