Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Cowboys hobble flat Raiders

Kane Linnett of the Cowboys is tackled by Josh McCrone of the Raiders. Photo / Getty Images
Kane Linnett of the Cowboys is tackled by Josh McCrone of the Raiders. Photo / Getty Images

Cowboys 30
Raiders 12

It was far from their vintage best but the Cowboys got their campaign back on track with a workmanlike win over a flat Canberra side.

Like the Warriors will be next week against the Titans, the home side were desperate for a win last night. Two points were simply non-negotiable.

It was an entertaining game that never reached any great heights. After four tries in the first 16 minutes, there was no further scoring until the 64th minute, with solid defence as well as needless mistakes frustrating any attacking attempts.

Both teams came into this game desperate to spark their seasons. The Cowboys needed to rebound from the unfamiliar depths of 11th place while the Raiders were looking for their first away win this year.

Canberra had dug deep into their reservoir of good fortune against the Warriors but are probably the NRL's worst travellers. They had not won a match in North Queensland since 2006.

Matt Bowen marked his comeback to the NRL side by setting up the first two tries, though the second was to the Raiders (Edrick Lee plucked an intercept in the eighth minute). Brent Tate had opened the scoring five minutes earlier. The Cowboys then accelerated away with two tries in the space of three minutes but never looked completely convincing in the first half.

Thurston, who was short of his own high standards in the Anzac test last week, combined well with Bowen but his timing still looks slightly off.

As he did a fortnight ago, Raiders five-eighth Terry Campese provided some crucial touches of creativity but any chance Canberra had was killed by mistakes. The men from the capital could boast some attacking flair - especially with the return of Blake Ferguson - but they completed just 68 per cent of their sets in a nervy display.

The home side weren't much better. You can never count out a team with Thurston and Bowen as well as Matt Scott and James Tamou (both props were excellent, with Scott carrying for 154 metres) but the Cowboys don't look like a team that will be making headlines come September. One bright spot was young halfback Michael Morgan, who grabbed the match-sealing try and upstaged the bigger names on display. Jack Wighton reduced the deficit in the 70th minute but a comeback was always unlikely.

Cowboys 30 (B. Tate, G. Hall, M. Bowen, M. Morgan, A. Graham tries; J. Thurston 5 goals) Raiders 12 (E. Lee, J. Wighton tries; J. Croker, R. Robinson goals). Halftime: 16-6.

- Herald on Sunday

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