The South Sydney Rabbitohs have gone down to the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville tonight (Saturday) by 20-18.
Despite keeping the Cowboys scoreless in the second half, a horror start for the Rabbitohs proved too much to overcome after finding themselves down 14-0 inside the first ten minutes of play.
The Cowboys put their best foot forward right from the kick-off, with the hang-time allowing them to force the Rabbitohs deep into their own half. From the next set, Mathew Wright opened the scoring after a Johnathan Thurston bomb was tapped back by Curtis Rona for the centre to score. Thurston added the extras from out wide to make it six-nil after just three minutes.
Things didn’t get easier for Souths, when Nathan Merritt spilled the ball on a kick-return in part thanks to a high-shot from the Cowboys. But referee Ben Cummins ruled a knock-on – the decision proving costly for the Rabbits immediately with Tariq Sims crashing over just two tackles later. Thurston hooked the conversion attempt, leaving the score at 10-0.
If Souths thought that their bad luck was over, the ensuing kick-off proved them wrong, with Sdam Reynolds’ kick-off being taken over the touch-line on the full by Curtis Rona. North Queensland immediately made the Rabbitohs pay, with Antonio Winterstein crossing in the corner to make it 14-0 after just nine minutes.
After a forgettable opening to the match for the visitors, the Rabbitohs finally got over the stripe when Adam Reynolds changed direction before stabbing a grubber-kick into the in-goal for Chris McQueen to swoop on and score. Reynolds converted from close range to make it 14-6 after 20 minutes.
The Cowboys hit back seven minutes later though, when Rona desperately batted a kick back in to Wright, who picked up his second of the night just inside the touch-line. Thurston sprayed the conversion attempt, leaving the score at 18-6 with 11 minutes of the first half remaining.
A penalty against the Rabbitohs within kicking distance, allowed Thurston to kick his side a further two points ahead from short-range to take the teams to the break with the home-side leading 20-6.
On the resumption, birthday boy Jason Clark powered over in fine style under the sticks to narrow the gap. Reynolds added the extras to make the score a more respectable 20-12.
Both sides traded blows as they looked to gain an advantage. With the clock winding down, Greg Inglis broke through the Cowboys line before being dragged down 15 metres out. But a John Sutton grubber into the in-goal sat up well for Inglis who planted the ball over the line to make it a two-point ball-game with Reynolds’ conversion.
Reynolds’ towering bomb claimed another victim in the form of Mathew Wright with 10 minutes remaining – giving the Rabbitohs perfect field position, but the red and green’s failed to come up with points.
The Rabbitohs had a range of opportunities late in the game, but the Cowboys held on to come out on top – ending Souths’ four-game winning streak.
Cowboys 20 (Mathew Wright 2, Tariq Sims, Antonio Winterstein, tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals)
Rabbitohs 18 (Chris McQueen, Jason Clark, Greg Inglis, tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals)