The North Queensland Cowboys withstood a classic Canberra Raiders comeback to post a thrilling one-point 19-18 win to open their 2023 season.
It was a typical ‘game of two halves’, with the Raiders forced to do a mountain of defence in the first half, on the back foot early with the home side heaping on the pressure.
After defending their own goal line gamely, with a few try-saving intercept attempts denying the Cowboys their opening points, the pressure finally told, with Murray Taulagi scoring in the 25th minute after being denied only moments early by Nick Cotric swiping the ball from his hands as he was running for the line.
The home side ran out to an 18-0 lead early, with Scott Drinkwater especially impressive with a double, with the spine clicking with Tom Dearden and Reece Robson heavily involved in the set up.
However, a try to Raiders forward Emre Guler late in the first half saw the momentum shift, with the visitors using that as inspiration to come out firing in the second.
While the home side were nearly perfect to start the game, they got away from their game plan as the Raiders were about to put the pressure on, with back-to-back tries to Tom Starling in the 53rd minute and Jack Wighton in the 57th locking scores at 18-18.
After some fiery back-and-forth in the heat of North Queensland, Chad Townsend was able to coolly slot a field goal in the 75th minute to snatch the win.