NRL: Cowboys confirm heavyweight status

By Dale Budge

Johnathan Thurston. Photo / Getty Images
Johnathan Thurston. Photo / Getty Images

Knights 12
Cowboys 32

The big game players in the North Queensland Cowboys ensured their side maintained their spot in the top four with an impressive win at Newcastle last night.

Kangaroos five-eighth Johnathan Thurston produced the key plays and kicked a perfect six from six to power the Cowboys to their fourth win in five away games this season.

The Cowboys are fast becoming one of the competition heavyweights this season and, on their day, look the closest team to the unbeaten Melbourne Storm.

The Knights struggled to produce much substance on last tackle inside the red zone - the season-ending injury to playmaker Kurt Gidley and absence of veteran hooker Danny Buderus evident with their lack of creativity when they were hard on attack.

While struggling to find their way over the line, the home side dominated the opening 15 minutes but were able to score only once - a long-range strike from former Kiwis centre Junior Sa'u.

Coach Wayne Bennett needs more from his halves if they are to be a threat.

The video referee denied the visitors when Kane Linnett had a try ruled out in the in-goal. Replays showed Linnett and Knights winger Akuila Uate ground the ball simultaneously but, unlike on two occasions in the earlier Warriors vs Roosters match, the video referee ruled no try.

Eventually some slick hands from former Warriors centre Brent Tate put winger Ashley Graham over to level the scores. Tate enjoyed another solid outing, reminding Queensland selectors that he wouldn't let anyone down.

He was involved in the Cowboys' second try as well, which featured a beautiful backline move involving Thurston and Matt Bowen, who could also be a worthy option off the bench for Queensland in Origin 1. Second rower Chris Houston crashed over on halftime to bring the scores back level again.

A couple of classy dummy half runs from halfback/hooker Ray Thompson put the Cowboys on the attack and Michael Morgan latched on to a Thurston kick to break the deadlock midway through the second spell. Thompson, who seemed out of a job when the Cowboys signed former Wests Tigers halfback Robert Lui in the off-season, has been one of the competition's most improved players this year. Graham added a double shortly after to seal victory and push his side up to third.

Knights 12 (J. Sau, C. Houston tries; T Roberts 2 goals), Cowboys 32 (A. Graham 2, R. Thompson, M. Morgan, G. Cooper tries; J. Thurston 6 goals). Halftime: 12-12.

- Herald on Sunday

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