Cowboys shoot down Roosters despite missing six big guns to fire up finals campaign


Despite being without six Origin stars, North Queensland put in one of their best performances of the season to kick-start what had been a stuttering 2024 premiership campaign.

With fullback Scott Drinkwater engineering their attack, they surged past a Roosters side also missing several big guns due to rep duty to the tune of 18-16 to improve to a 7-6 record and claim a spot on the fringe of the top eight.

They have been one of the most hot-and-cold sides in the NRL and have not been able to compete when they have taken on the true title contenders.

And while they are by no means finals bound after getting the better of a weakened Roosters line-up, it’s the kind of result that can provide mid-season momentum during the tricky representative period.

Roosters veteran Jared Waerea-Hargreaves could be in strife with the match review committee for a high tackle while Cowboys second-rower Heilum Luki is certain to be charged and likely facing a ban for a dangerous throw which earned him a stint in the sin bin.

Depleted teams give full value

Often these matches where both teams have a heavy representative toll can be close but not necessarily entertaining but both teams looked slick in attack while being strong in defence to remove the usual second-tier flavour to such contests.

Whether it was due to the fact that both teams were missing several Origin stars or a muscling up in defence but neither side was able to cross the stripe in the opening 20 minutes with the Roosters eventually booting a penalty goal to draw first blood. 

Walker drifted left in the 25th minute to mesmerise the defence and provide the slightest of gaps for prop Terrell May to crash over. 

The Cowboys opened their account seven minutes from the break when a Scott Drinkwater cut-out pass presented Burns with a scoot to the corner after Dominic Young made a poor defensive read.

Daniel Tupou is tackled. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Just before half-time, Young made amends when he broke free down the right flank and after he was tackled, Walker cleverly fooled the recovering defensive line to give the winger a saloon passage past the scattered Cowboys.

Luki was banished in the 50th minute after he upended Sitili Tupouniua and he will be lucky to avoid a ban after driving his Roosters rival head-first into the turf in a dangerous position. 

Despite being a player down, the Cowboys halved the deficit to six when Drinkwater palmed off a feeble tackle attempt from Michael Jennings, a late inclusion in the Roosters side after skipper James Tedesco was called into the Blues’ Origin camp when Dylan Edwards was ruled out earlier on Sunday.

As well as Tedesco, the home side was missing Joseph Suaali’i, Spencer Leniu, Lindsay Collins and Angus Crichton while the Cowboys had six out, the highest representation of any club – NSW hooker Reece Robson plus Maroons starters Reuben Cotter, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden.

The Cowboys employed the rare tactic of kicking a penalty goal when down by six to soak up some time while Luki was in the bin. 

They held firm for the remaining minutes being a player down and managed to draw level 10 minutes from full-time when Kulikefu Finefeuiaki ran off stand-in five-eighth Jake Clifford but Drinkwater’s conversion attempt from out wide just missed to set up a thrilling finale.

Young looked set to snatch victory from the Cowboys with a right-side raid in the 79th minute but Drinkwater’s superb cover tackle took him into touch before he could kick infield.

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