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In their short history of showdowns, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Queensland Cowboys have forged an unlikely rivalry that has produced magic moments and memorable matches.
Since 1995, the two sides have met on 24 occasions, with the Rabbitohs holding the balance of power with 13 wins, 10 losses and a draw. But from all those matches, few come close to the round 24 encounter of the 2011 season, that saw Souths run out 26-24 victors in golden-point extra-time against all odds.
With the Cowboys determined to keep their feet firmly planted in the top four late in the season, while the Rabbitohs battled for a top-eight spot, the late season clash at ANZ Stadium saw plenty go on the line for both teams – and it didn’t start well for the Rabbitohs.
Greg Inglis – then playing in the centres – was ruled out of the match with a concussion, while Nathan Merritt was a late scratching, after the fullback went down in the warm-up with a quad injury – James Roberts coming in to cover. Adding to the side’s woes during the match was the injury to John Sutton’s hand.
But despite the loss of personnel, it was the Rabbitohs who got on the score-board first, when Roberts put up a towering cross-field bomb that the Cowboys failed to diffuse. John Sutton was there to pick up the scraps though – the Rabbitohs five-eighth opening the scoring.
North Queensland replied immediately, with Matt Bowen slicing through the Rabbitohs defence before passing on to Johnathan Thurston, who strode the remaining 20 metres to score and level it all up again.
It was a case of tit for tat mere minutes later, when another Rabbitohs bomb close to the North Queensland line yielded another four-pointer – this time for Souths Juniors Eddy Pettybourne out wide to give the home-side a six-point advantage.
Cowboy Tariq Sims took exception to the Rabbitohs’ lead, replying in kind with his own four-pointer from short range to level it all up again to take the sides to the break at 12 points apiece.
On the resumption, the Cowboys looked to take control of the match, and nearly did so when Ray Thompson sliced through and had only the Rabbitohs fullback to beat. With support coming in strong on his left-hand side, Thompson bizarrely ignored the support and opted to go himself, in so doing bombing a certain try.
The Cowboys made up for it though when Matt Bowen scored one of his own on the opposite side of the pitch to finally break the dead-lock in the 58th minute to make it 16-12 in the visitors’ favour.
John Sutton sustained a hand injury during the match, but showed great determination to battle the pain by simply strapping it up and getting back on the pitch to help keep his side’s season alive. But despite the grit, it was the Cowboys who were beginning to muscle up, when centre Willie Tonga crossed the stripe. Johnathan Thurston added a penalty goal to make 24-12 with 10 minutes remaining.
Souths wouldn’t give up though, with Roberts attacking the North Queensland line from short-range and coming up with a four-pointer, before a Chris Sandow break set up a try for Chris McQueen out wide to make it a two-point ball-game. Sandow calmly slotted the touch-line conversion to level the match up and taking the teams to golden-point.
Bowen looked to seal the game for the Cowboys in the opening two minutes of extra-time when he took a 25 metre shot at field goal that mercifully hit the upright and was regathered by the Rabbitohs.
With Souths attacking the Cowboys line with intent, James Segeyaro hit Issac Luke high in a tackle with the referees awarding a penalty to the Rabbitohs within kicking-distance. Sandow lined up the shot and slotted it, sinking the visitors in a thrilling match by 26-24.
To watch all the highlights from the match, please press play on the video player.
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