The New Zealand Warriors may have had a slow start, but that didn’t last long as they went on to beat the North Queensland Cowboys in a golden point thriller 25-24 in Redcliffe on Friday night and make it 3 wins in their last 3 games.
The Cowboys came out firing after their 28-4 defeat at the hands of the Sydney Roosters last week, putting on some big hits and racking up some big metres in the first half.
In the 3rd minute, Warrior Jesse Arthars looked to get the home team on the board first, but it wasn’t to be as the ball bounced off his chest.
It was only 3 minutes later that the Cowboys would find themselves crossing the line through Tom Dearden.
The windy conditions made the kicking game for both sides interesting, with Valentine Holmes failing to get the extra points.
In the 10th minute, Arthars scored off a great pass from Shaun Johnson.
Reece Walsh converted with ease, and the Warriors were back in the game and in the lead.
Addin Fonua-Blake was a late inclusion to the Warriors line-up following an injury scare last week against the Brisbane Broncos.
He made his presence known, particularly with a bone-rattling hit on Reuben Cotter that gave away a penalty.
The Cowboys took the kick for 2 and Holmes brought the scores level.
While he made some big hits, AFB also came up with a costly error when he couldn’t grab the ball after an awkward bounce in goal, resulting in Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater grounding the ball followed by a successful conversion from Holmes to take a 6 point lead.
With just over 5 minutes left in the half, youngster Murray Taulugi took an intercept and took off before Reece Walsh chased him down.
Taulagi then passed to Holmes who went 50 metres down the field to put them in a great position to extend their lead but not before he too was cleaned up, this time by Marcelo Montoya.
Moments later following a quick play the ball, the Cowboys were in again with veteran Cowboy Kyle Feldt scoring after outnumbering the defence on the line.
Holmes again added the extras and the Cowboys supporters were up out of their seats.
The Warriors knew they needed to get another try in before the halftime break, and five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita had a chance to make that happen.
CHT kicked a superb 40/20 to get the Warriors in the position they needed, and it paid off when lock Josh Curran scored with 2 minutes left of the half.
Walsh added the extras and we had a 6 point ball game going into the break.
It wasn’t a good start to the second half for the Cowboys, with Taulugi failing to judge the kickoff and running in too soon which resulted in a knock-on and gifting the Warriors possession.
The Warriors took advantage of this error, and a few plays later Kodi Nikorima found himself over the line after a dummy only metres out.
The Cowboys were focused on a potential shift to the side and didn’t see Nikorima’s dummy coming. Walsh converted and the game was tied up again, 18 all.
After some ordinary sets, the Cowboys went over again as Valentine Holmes wrestled with Reece Walsh to ground the ball in the 48th minute, but failed to add the extras.
The Cowboys looked certain to run the length of the field and score again after a Shaun Johnson bomb was caught by Scott Drinkwater, he ran 35 metres before CHT took his legs out from underneath him in yet another great defensive play.
With 20 minutes to go, Marcelo Montoya put on some big hits with Peta Hiku and Kyle Feldt his casualties as they were left on the ground after consecutive tackles.
It wasn’t the best outcome though, as Montoya was put on report for his hit on Hiku as the ref said it involved high contact.
Following these tackles by Montoya, a slur was made towards Kyle Feldt who was still on the ground.
While it wasn’t known at the time who made the slur as it wasn’t brought up until after the game was finished, it is going to be investigated by the NRL which puts a dampener on what was an exciting game.
In the 65th minute, the Warriors went over again, this time through Euan Aitken who was too strong for Scott Drinkwater to hold up.
Reece Walsh levelled the score with his conversion, and discussions started about golden point and which team would try for a field goal before the 80th-minute siren.
The Warriors came close to sealing the game with just over 6 minutes left when Jesse Arthars took off and passed to Reece Walsh who passed wildly towards supporting players – but with a full tackle count a play later, the Cowboys were given the ball and needed to go 95 metres if they took the win.
The last 3 minutes saw the Warriors take some chances for a field goal, the first by Shaun Johnson which was charged down by Jake Granville.
The Warriors got to the ball first with Bailey Sironen scooping it up, and the Warriors were given another set of 6. Reece Walsh then had a crack less than a minute later, but it went wide of the posts.
With a minute left, it was the Cowboy’s turn to have a crack at a field goal, but Chad Townsend opted to pass wide as four Warriors came rushing at him and limiting his space and time to set up for an attempt.
The passes continued, and Feldt put a grubber kick in towards the line, but CHT was there to save the day for the Warriors in yet another great defensive move that resulted in him being taken from the field after a stray shin to the nose courtesy of Chad Townsend.
With 20 seconds left, the Warriors just needed to keep the ball to go into golden point, and not give the Cowboys any opportunities to score before that siren. The siren went, and it was time for golden point.
The Cowboys kicked off and the Warriors had a solid first set, with Shaun Johnson having his second crack at a field goal from 40 metres out only for it to ricochet off Cowboy Heilum Luki.
They were lucky enough to get possession and 6 again which would put them in a position to go for another field goal.
Shaun Johnson had yet another attempt less than 2 minutes into the 5 minute half and this time from only 20 metres out, but it went wide to the right after Jake Granville came charging at him.
The Cowboys then got their opportunity as they made their way down the field, but Chad Townsend kicked it wide of the posts and straight into the arms of Reece Walsh who brought it back into the field.
The Warriors started charging up the field with some big runs, hoping to get close enough and that they did when Shaun Johnson finally got the winning field goal, driving the ball low between the posts and from 30 metres out in his 100th career win.
The golden point win also ends a 6 year drought in golden point games for the Warriors.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown said he thought they deserved to win with the amount of goal line defence they did.
“We have won three in a row and in the last three games we have certainly found some growth in some areas, that’s for sure”.
He also went on to talk about the next few games on their roster.
“We have got the Roosters and Storm who have probably been the two best sporting clubs in Australia for the last 20 years so that will give us a real good look at how much growth we have had, and how much more we need to get.”
Cowboys coach Todd Payten was blunt with his thoughts on his side’s performance.
“I think we gift-wrapped the game and handed it to the Warriors.”
“It was a bit of a horror show unfolding in slow motion but at different times we had opportunities to win the game.”
Next week sees the Warriors travel to Sydney to play the Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, while the Cowboys will travel interstate for the first time this season as they head to Canberra to play the Raiders on Thursday night.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS: 25 (TRIES: J. Arthars, J. Curran, K. Nikorima, E. Aitken GOALS: R. Walsh 4/4 FIELD GOAL: S. Johnson)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS: 24 (TRIES: T. Dearden, S. Drinkwater, K. Feldt, V. Holmes GOALS: V. Holmes 2/4 PENALTY GOALS: V. Holmes 2/2
JUDICIARY: M. Montoya (WAR) for high contact on Peta Hiku
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: Chanel Harris-Tavita (WAR), Euan Aitken (WAR), Addin Fonua-Blake (WAR), Tom Gilbert (COW), Scott Drinkwater (COW), Reuben Cotter (COW)