Roosters steal Cowboys' limelight - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Roosters steal Cowboys' limelight

By Laine Clark 29/04/2006 09:11:27 PM Comments (0)

It was billed as North Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston's final audition for Test selection.

But the injury-hit Sydney Roosters ripped up the script, claiming an upset 22-18 NRL round eight victory at Townsville and relegating the ladder-leading Cowboys to a second straight defeat.

The match was billed as a last minute showing by Thurston and fellow Kangaroos hopefuls in front of Australian coach - and Roosters mentor - Ricky Stuart before the national team was named for next Friday's ANZAC clash.

However, Thurston and his Cowboys saved their scrappiest game of the season as the gutsy Roosters ran out four tries to three winners in front of 21,175, largely gutted, North Queensland fans.

Man of the moment, reigning Dally M medalist Thurston, seemed to try too hard in a hot and cold performance.

But Stuart was diplomatic when asked if the match would affect players' Test chances.

"I don't think so," he said.

Stuart was more concerned with an unlikely win just four days after a 22-12 ANZAC Day loss to the Dragons and without seven first grade regulars including Test fullback Anthony Minichiello (hamstring) and utility Chris Flannery (broken hand).

"That was remarkable. It was certainly the toughest and most character-building win I have been involved in at the Roosters," Stuart said.

"I thought inexperience was going to cost us. But you can only hang in and win if you have team spirit and the boys are really showing that there is a ton of that there."

Shellshocked Cowboys coach Graham Murray - who had up to four players in Test contention - had not contemplated any affect on his charges' selection chances.

"I was reflecting on our performance which was obviously below standard - not representative selections," he said.

Asked if all the Test hype had distracted his men Murray said: "That can happen but you know every week you have to aim up because if you don't you can come unstuck quite easily like we did tonight.

"They just played better than us. We have no excuses. We were poor in every department, particularly ball control."

Despite leading the penalties 10-3, North Queensland (6-2 season record) made 23 errors to the Roosters' 17 in a fumble-fest.

"It was uncharacteristic but that (errors) was the biggest factor. There was dropped ball when where there was no collision - you expect it when you are catching under pressure but too many just put the ball down," he said.

Stuart stopped short of saying the win would kick-start a season revival for the mid-table Roosters (4-4 record).

"It's not going to turn around next week unless we want it to. We aren't going to go out and make stupid statements - this is a big part of building a football team," he said.

After leading 10-6 at halftime, Stuart was left sweating when Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne darted out of dummy half, cut through four defenders and scored under the posts in the 54th minute to give North Queensland the lead for the first time.

But the Roosters came alive when halfback Brett Finch helped set up tries to Anthony Tupou (68th minute) and Vince Mellars (72nd) to hand the visitors a surprise 22-12 lead.

Cowboys winger Neil Sweeney crashed down the left sideline to score in the 77th minute and Thurston converted from the sideline but it was too little, too late.

Stuart gave former Cowboy John Doyle - who last played NRL football in 2002 - his Roosters first grade debut off the bench.

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