The Sydney Roosters have survived an almighty scare from a very determined Cowboys outfit to secure 26-20 victory at Allianz Stadium tonight. The victory ensures their position in the Top 4 with just four matches remaining in the regular season.
The home side were dominant early, leading 16-8 at halftime, with quick tries to wingers Blake Ferguson and Daniel Tupou putting the Tricolours in a commanding position. North Queensland then stormed back into contention through their star players Jonathan Thurston and Jason Taumalolo to go down fighting making just one error in an outstanding second half fight back.
Coming into the match in red hot form, the Tricolours were looking to secure a spot in the Top 4 for September after recent thumpings of the Dragons and Sea Eagles, and it was widely expected that their superstar backline would again be too powerful for the lowly ranked Cowboys. This expectation seemed ominous when the Tricolours gun centre Latrell Mitchell opened the scoring, with some slick hands down the short side from James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner, that allowed the blockbusting NSW centre enough room to burst through the defensive line to open the scoring.
The Cowboys hung in however, and looked very determined to make a game of it when skipper Jonathan Thurston got them on the scoreboard with a penalty goal after back to back penalties finally gave the visitors a decent amount of possession.
Jason Taumalolo then showed his side how it is done, when the behemoth backrower collected a loose pass and ran a direct line through Isaac Liu and then steamrolled over the top of Tedesco in the last line of defence to fire up his side and take the lead 8-6 after 20 minutes.
The Roosters responded immediately however, when underrated Roosters centre Joseph Manu got on the outside of his man and produced a sublime flick pass for his winger Blake Ferguson to streak away downfield. Ferguson then kicked inside to find a leaping Manu in support to score a sensational Roosters try. Mitchell's conversion extended the lead to 12-8 with halftime looming.
North Queensland hung on for dear life nearing the break, however their discipline let them down, giving away a whopping five penalties in the final 10 minutes, with Mitchell adding two more penalty goals to lead 16-8 at Halftime.
The hosts were building nicely at the break and they took things up a notch after the break, when off a scrum, Tedesco received some early ball for Manu, who put Blake Ferguson into some space down the sideline and the barnstorming winger showed far too much speed and power for the Cowboys cover defence to score another superb Roosters try to extend the lead to 20-8 with half an hour remaining.
This was immediately followed by a try on the opposite wing, when Daniel Tupou latched onto a superb Cooper Cronk pass and the Roosters lead extended to 20 points and it looked as though Jonathan Thurston's last game at Allianz Stadium was going to be a terrible experience.
Thurston then broke the game open, when he threw a trademark dummy to Taumalolo on his inside to score under the posts and get his side back in the game. Off the back of some strong charges by the side's representative stars in Taumalolo and Coen Hess. North Queensland then stormed downfield and Taumalolo looked certain to score another bullocking try, before offloading out the back for Gavin Cooper to score. The Cowboys all of the sudden had all the momentum with 10 minutes to go and the Roosters had officially clocked off.
Fortunately for the home side, despite the late scare Trent Robinson's men held on and escaped with a narrow victory to set up an epic blockbuster with arch rivals and first placed South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium next Friday night.
The Cowboys loss will be heartbreaking for Paul Green's men as they are currently just avoiding last place on for and against to Parramatta. The Cowboys now return to Townsville, where they faced have their own local derby facing Queensland rivals Brisbane in a huge match up next Thursday night.