The New Zealand Warriors ‘hosted’ North Queensland Cowboys on the Central Coast as both teams looked to bounce back from disappointing losses last weekend.
The game didn’t start too well for the Cowboys as both Valentine Holmes and Jake Clifford picked up early knocks.
On top of this, the Warriors were applying heavy pressure onto the away side after multiple repeat sets.
The ‘home’ side made sure to punish North Queensland for their sloppy start and took advantage of the inexperience of debutant Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Blake Green noticed the young winger too far forward in the defensive line and chipped in behind for Patrick Herbert, who judged the flight of the ball perfectly the ground it as it touched the floor.
Five minutes later, Tabuai-Fidow made up for his slight defensive mishap as he picked up the ball 10 metre’s out, stepped passed Patrick Herbert and looped a pass outside to Valentine Holmes who slid over in the corner.
After converting to level the scores, Kyle Feldt picked up the Cowboys second try of the night.
A fifth tackle kick which was bouncing in the dead-ball area from Mitchell Dunn was being shepherded out by Peta Hiku, but Feldt got to the ball first and grounded the ball much to Hiku’s embarrassment.
Just a few minutes later, the Warriors levelled the scores themselves as Kodi Nikorima made a line break from 25 metres out from the line.
Despite plenty of space in front of him, he passed the ball onto Elisea Katoa who was in a more uncomfortable scoring position but still powered over four Cowboys to score.
Just after this score, Valentine Holmes left the field after struggling with an ankle knock in the opening minute.
Tabuai-Fidow looked to have picked up a debut try just after the half an hour mark. Unfortunately, Coen Hess was deemed to have interfered with Blake Green in the build-up, which created the gap for the young winger to glide through.
Peta Hiku was the next player to make up for a defensive mishap.
With five minutes to go until the break, the Warriors shifted the ball out to the left edge and the powerful centre pushed away a weak tackle from Esan Marsters and stretched over to score.
With time running out in the first half, Nikorima found himself with the ball, on the 30-metre line after kicking a penalty to touch, and the half-back kicked a field goal on the first tackle for a five-point lead.
HALF-TIME: New Zealand Warriors 17-12 North Queensland Cowboys
The first half started in good fashion for the Cowboys, despite the news that Holmes and Jordan McClean would both be out for the evening, leaving then down to 15 fit players.
Straight off the back of the scrum feed in centre-field, the Cowboys spread the ball to the left-hand edge, and Tabuai-Fidow worked well to create space for Justin O’Neill to dive over in the corner.
With just a slender one-point lead, Nikorima took control of the ball once again and slapped the ball onto Adam Pompey, who scored in the corner, after an offload from Katoa.
The Cowboys hit straight back though, as Francis Molo picked up a short ball from Reece Robson and busted over the tackle of Jack Murchie to score.
The back and forth between the two sides continued, as the Warriors followed the pattern of the game and were the next to score.
Wayde Egan kicked from dummy-half and Peta Hiku was the first player to the ball and grabbed his second of the night.
The next ten minutes of the game belonged to the Warriors, as they camped deep in the North Queensland half.
Hiku looked to have picked up his hat-trick try, as Kyle Feldt couldn’t claim Green’s kick to the corner and bounced into the hands of the centre who dropped down to score.
With ten minutes of the match remaining, the Warriors stretched their lead even further and looked to seal the two points.
Blake Green put up a high bomb towards the centre of the field, and the ball was allowed to bounce by a number of Cowboys.
This allowed Karl Lawton to pick up the ball and grab a try for the ‘home’ side.
Having made twice as many tackles as their opponents, you could blame the Cowboys for looking visibly tired.
That wasn’t the case though, as after picking up two set restarts, the Cowboys shifted the ball to the right edge, and Feldt cut the gap to nine, with five minutes remaining.
With time ticking by, the Warriors once again found themselves with the ball deep inside the Cowboys half.
This time, Elisea Katoa seemed, for all money, odds on the reach Karl Lawton’s kick behind the line.
However, he was held back by Esan Marsters, who was sent to the sin bin after a review by The Bunker. The presence of Kyle Feldt saved a penalty try.
Nikorima closed the game out with a kick to goal though and duly converted.
FULL-TIME: New Zealand Warriors 37-26 North Queensland Cowboys
New Zealand Warriors
Tuivasa-Sheck, Herbert, Beale, Hiku, Pompey, Nikorima, Green, Taunoa-Brown, Egan, Burr, Katoa, Harris, Blair
Interchanges: Lawton, Faamausilii, Vuniyayawa, Murchie
Tries: Herbert, Katoa, Hiku (3), Pompey, Lawton
Goals: Nikorima (4/8)
North Queensland Cowboys
Holmes, Feldt, O’Neill, Marsters, Tabuai-Fidow, Drinkwater, Clifford, McLean, Robson, McGuire, Dunn, Hess, Taumalolo
Interchanges: Molo, Cotter, Gilbert, Cooper
Tries: Holmes, Feldt (2), O’Neill, Molo
Goals: Feldt (3/5)
Referee: A. Gee
Touch Judges: T. Roby, L. Kennedy
Video Referee: B. Galea