Underdogs get first win of 2014 season on the road in dramatic fashion.
The New Zealand Warriors have notched their first victory of the season and they had to do it the hard way, holding off a fast finishing North Queensland Cowboys side in Townsville 20-16.
New Zealand looked a chance of running away with the game as they scored either side of half time, but the Cowboys showed their fighting spirit to send the game down to the wire.
Early in the first half, New Zealand grabbed the lead when a pass from Chad Townsend bounced, before Glen Fisiiahi picked up the half-volley to score out wide.
The away side showed good energy around the play the ball to rumble downfield as they
had the Cowboys’ defence under pressure several times.
North Queensland dodged a bullet in the 17th minute when the video referee confirmed the on-field call of no-try.
But with Shaun Johnson and Sam Tomkins playing off their back of their rolling forward pack the Warriors looked like the team at the Auckland Nines earlier in the season.
And Fisiiahi bagged his second for the half in controversial circumstances with video replays
showing there might of been a hint of a knock-on in the lead up the winger grounding the ball.
But the on-field call of try came back in New Zealand’s favour, however, Johnson’s shot for goal was waved away again as his side took the two-try lead.
Antonio Winterstein blew a certain try for the Warriors as he tripped over with the lien in sight, with
the video referee ruling he knocked the ball on as he slid towards the line.
However, Winterstein made up for his mistake minutes later before Johnathan Thurston landed the sideline conversion as the home side drew within two points.
Five penalties in 10 minutes for the Cowboys saw them start to get possession and territory in the shadows of half-time.
However, despite a chaotic final couple of minutes the Warriors led 8-6 at the break in a game that was expected to produce more points.
Warriors halfback Johnson said his side needed to control the tempo better if they were to put comfortable gap on their opponents.
“We just need to put a big emphases around the ruck, that;’s why we have not been able to get into the game, so we need to change that in the second half,” Johnson said.
Both sides made a sloppy start to the second half with their normally tight ball control giving way to turnovers and lost chances in attack.
Konrad Hurrell gave his side the all-important first try of the secon half as he busted acorss the line from in cose in what was his 26th try from 38 games.
The conversion to Johnson saw the away side grab a eight-point lead with plenty of time remaining.
On the back of a penalty for a high tackle, the Warriors scored their second for the half as Sione Lousi carried two defenders over the line as they took a stranglehold on the game at 20-6 with 17 minutes left.
Michael Morgan gave his side the spark it needed when he cleaned up a horrible miss by Fisiiahi who failed to catch a Thurston bomb, with the Cowboys’ fullback pouncing on the loose ball, cutting the margin to eight.
Tariq Sims looked close to scoring but for a late effort by Tomkins and a host of his teammates who swarmed the Cowboys backrower.
Video replays showed that while Sims went close there was not enough evidence to show the green light and the Warriors breathed a big sigh of relief.
However, there was no denying Kyle Feldt who surged down the right wing to score in the corner which did not give Thurston an easy shot at goal.
The conversion sailed across the face of goal and vitally the Cowboys trailed 20-16 with five minutes remaining as heavy rain started to fall in Townsville.
Feldt looked to have dramatically levelled the game inside the final minute only to be correctly called back for going out of bounds.
But the game had one final twist as the Warriors turned the ball over on their own 20 metre line, before the Cowboys knocked the ball on from the first tackle after the scrum.
In all, the Warriors escaped with the upset victory away from home in what was their first win for the 2014 season.