Story of the match
In terms of the forwards battle and field position the Cowboys made the better of the opening exchanges but it was the Warriors who scored first somewhat against the run of play. Right winger Patrick Herbert, standing in for 2019 Daily M Winger of the Year, timed his run perfectly for Blake Green’s well weighted Crossfield attacking kick and Herbert was able to finish. Nikorima added the conversion from wide out. 6-0.
The Warriors built from their try with some real efficient yardage sets, applying disciplined ball control and aggressive in-field carries. However, in their first meaningful attacking set of the game, the Cowboys found a way through the Warriors, their pivots executed a set play efficiently and it ended in debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidwo providing a walk-in for former Australia international Valentine Holmes. The other Cowboys winger, Kyle Feldt, added the extras. 6-6.
Set completion, attacking discipline, intensity and execution were all fairly well controlled and applied by both teams during the opening 20 in a first half that was proving to be a real closely-fought battle. Following a rare, costly Warriors handling error during an exit set inside their own half, the Cowboys carried out an attacking set inside the hosts’ half and experienced centre Pita Hiku had a brain explosion leaving Dunn’s accurate grubber kick to go dead that clearly never was and Kyle Feldt was on hand to accept the invite, touching down to edge the Cowboys in-front. The ever-reliable Feldt successfully converted his own try. 6-12.
The Cowboys were starting to dominate the forwards battle, most notably the rampaging, ridiculously powerful Jason Taumalolo. But somewhat against the run of play, the Warriors struck back against the run of play, the electric fleet-footed Nikorima had the balance and guile to break the line and assisted the supporting Eli Katoa who had the power to crash over the line under pressure. Nikorima successfully converted. 12-12.
North Queensland, who’s attacking execution was clinical throughout the half, thought they had reclaimed the lead as the impressive Tabuai-Fidwo had the acceleration and anticipation to ghost his way through a small gap in the Warriors defensive line, but it was called back for an obstruction on Blake Green by a Cowboys lead-runner.
Peta Hiku atoned for gifting the Cowboys a try earlier on the first half, helping himself to a try on his own. The New Zealand international centre received the ball on the last tackle from the on-form Nikorima fifteen metres out from the line and had enough guile and strength to get on the outside of his opposite number Ewan Masters and produced a big reach to score under pressure. The try out wide wasn’t converted. 16-12. A high-scoring, entertaining affair was materialising.
The Warriors received a penalty in their own half for multiple Cowboys involved in contact being offside with twenty seconds of the first half remaining and off the back of that the outstanding Nikorima added an impressive field goal to edge his side 17-12 in-front of a free-flowing first half. Both sides completed well, enjoyed good spells of pressure and field position in an entertaining opening stanza, the second half was eagerly anticipated.
The New Zealand Warriors made the worst possible start to their second half, failing to complete their opening set and the Cowboys produced some slick ball movement in an attacking move directly from the scrum which ended in a try for Justin O’Neil, timing his run and finishing very well indeed. Feldt couldn’t convert. 17-16.
On 46 minutes the Warriors maintained the we-score you-score scoring pattern of the game, as Nikorima produced an outstanding tip-on pass on the final tackle to Winger Adam Pompey following a couple of purposeful attacking offloads and Pompey had a walk-in to put his side 21-16 in-front. Nikorima failed to convert.
For the second time in the second stanza the Warriors failed to complete the set from the kick-off, gifting the Cowboys another attacking set inside the hosts’ 20. The Warriors conceded a straightforward try on this occasion as the big, powerful Francis Molo ran onto the ball with a decoy timing his run well close to the line, providing Molo a bit more space and the North Queensland Prop was comfortably able to score. The Cowboys hit the lead as Feldt added the extras. 21-22.
The third quarter of the encounter was much like the first half, high intensity and not many stoppages, clinical attacking execution and the two sides were both enjoying good spells of field position. The Warriors were next to score as Pita Hiku completed his brace of tries, an intelligent kick from Hooker Wayde Egan on the last tackle found Hiku who scored under minimal pressure. Nikorima added a relatively straightforward conversion. 27-22.
During the opening hour of the match neither side ever really had clear control of the game but the Warriors were beginning to stamp their authority, enjoying multiple attacking sets inside the Cowboys’ half and eventually the pressure told. The usually reliable and efficient Kyle Feldt uncharacteristically failed to defuse Nikorima’s high kick and Hiku, who’s comical error now seemed a distant memory, barged his way through two desperate Cowboys’ defender to complete his hatrick. Nikorima couldn’t convert, the Warriors had been the better side by a distance during the opening 25 minutes of the second half. 31-22.
Nikorima’s guile, vision and creativity culminating assists and line breaks grabbed the headlines from the match but his halfback partner Green’s game management throughout the second half was outstanding, forcing multiple repeat sets and the tiring Cowboys couldn’t prevent the merciless hosts from running in a seventh try as debutant Fullback failed to deal with Green’s kick and Interchange Forward Karl Lawton touched down. Nikorima missed the conversion that looked a formality. 35-22.
In a ridiculously high-scoring game the Cowboys gave themselves a glimmer of hope during the 74th minute in their first attacking set for a very long period of time as Drinkwater produced a mesmerising left-to-right cut-out pass under pressure to set up Kyle Feldt who had a simple finish and had the quick thinking to improve the angle. Feldt agonisingly hit the post attempting to convert his own try, ensuring the visitors would have to score two tries during the final five minutes to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Warriors, who were by far the better side in the second half, had the collective concentration and game awareness to close the game out comfortably in the end, running out 35-26 winners.
What’s next for both sides?
The Warriors will be looking to back this win and devastating attacking performance up during their trip to the Rabbitohs next week.
Getting a result at the ANZ Stadium will be an uphill battle and they will go into the encounter as underdogs but they can take some momentum and confidence going into that clash and they undoubtedly have the players to cause some damage against any side on their day.
It was a disappointing night for the Cowboys, they scored five tries and played their part in an entertaining game but ahead of their clash with the Wests Tigers next week they will be desperately looking to improve their defensive dominance and all-round contact; a couple of tries conceded in their defeat to the Warriors also came from failing to deal with kicks; a preventable area they will need to improve in.