It was the Raiders with all the early momentum and at one stage, it looked like they had the Cowboys on the ropes for a while, before the man of the our and the game’s best half stepped up and made his presence known.
Steering his side to a solid come-from-behind win, it was the master half Johnathan Thurston that steered the ship back on course as the Cowboys had to dig deep to record the opening win.
With a lot of emphasis on just how the Cowboys would play under coach Paul Green, it was not the best start as it was the Raiders who burst out of the blocks on the back of solid performances from their usual young guns.
For the man of the hour, though – that is, Johnathan Thurston – he knows that his side made things hard for themselves early on but he praised the character of the side for digging deep and getting the win.
“We certainly put ourselves under the pump in the first-half and the second-half, too,” said Thurston.
“It really tested our self belief and it showed the character of this side that we can really stick to our guns, our game-plan and get over them in the end.”
With some cyclonic conditions floating around, Thurston puts the errors the Cowboys made early on down to basic errors.
“We had 3 errors in the first-half which put us under the pump, but as I said, the boys showed great ticker and we got over them in the end.”
Always a hard marker on himself, Thurston was pleased with parts of his game but knows that he too can improve.
“Yeah, parts of it,” said Thurston – when referring to his own game.
“Just really proud of the boys and pleased to get the two points.
For the Raiders, it can be a showing that has them brimming with pride, as captain Terry Campese described the first 30 minutes as one of their best in years.
It was a first-half blitz in 27 minutes as Josh Papalii, Edrick Lee and Jarrod Croker crossed, prompting Campese to praise his side and especially the spine for their great early start.
“I thought that first 30 [minutes] was the best we’ve been over the past couple of years, especially playing up here in Round 1 in these conditions,” Campese said.
“It’s a tough away trip and with our new ‘spine’ I thought we did well in that first 30.
“If we can hold onto that ball we’ll cause some havoc throughout the year.
“If we can improve on that and complete close to 100 per cent we’ll show what these young kids have got.”
Whilst it was a bit of a tough day at the office for young five-eighth Jack Wighton, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart put the loss down to being unable to stop the Cowboys attack and momentum, as well as their poor second-half completion rate.
“Our poor completion rate in the second half just made it so much harder on our defensive work. We were very good in the first half defensively,” Stuart said.
“We kept turning up for each other, we were strong and or structures were very good, just a couple of freak individual pieces of play and that try [to Thurston] before half-time, that hurt us.”
Despite that, he was pleased with their overall defensive efforts and praised his players for it.
“There’s not too much there that I don’t see we can’t fix pretty quickly. I was really proud of our defensive efforts for most of the game, particularly turning over that much football,” said Stuart.
“We’ve got a new halves combination, a new hooker-half combination and I’m happy with our performance. Disappointed with parts of our performance but overall we’re taking more positives out of it than negatives.”
3. Johnathan Thurston
2. Jason Taumalolo
1. Josh Papalii