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Cowboys finally wake up to beat Souths

By Dave Donaghy 01/07/2006 10:18:19 PM Comments (0)

South Sydney came within five minutes of upsetting North Queensland before the Cowboys finally woke from a six-week slumber to record a crucial 16-14 NRL win.

In what will be remembered as one of the most dour games of 2006, the Cowboys fought back from 10-6 down at halftime to break a six-game losing streak that had threatened to derail their finals chances.

Clever hooker Aaron Payne scored a double but a try to debutant Brent McConnell in the 75th minute finally snapped the club's horror run.

McConnell broke free of two Rabbitohs to dive over the line next to the upright and his conversion put the hosts ahead for good.

North Queensland desperately needed a win to keep in touch with the top eight after dropping from first to ninth on the competition table.

But of particularly concern is the fact the club is yet to score 20 points or more since its 22-6 win over Penrith in round nine.

Both teams had plenty to prove, North Queensland struggling to keep up with the finals pace and the Rabbitohs coming off last week's record loss to the Warriors.

Neither managed to show much in the way of attack or defence with atrocious ball handling, dismal tackling and a distinct lack of creativity or flair plaguing the match.

Cowboys winger Matt Sing, who joins English side Hull at the end of the season, was particularly woeful.

The former Queensland and Australian star has been a shadow of his former self during the losing streak and faces increasing pressure in the lead-up to the finals to hold his spot.

His fumble from the back of a scrum in the 17th minute led to a try to newly re-signed Souths veteran David Peachey while his next major mistake created another opportunity for a Rabbitohs' four-pointer.

This time it was rangy backrower Mark Minichiello who pounced on a deft Ben Walker grubber to steer the visitors to a 10-6 halftime lead.

Payne's opening try in the 25th minute kept the Cowboys in touch while his second four-pointer half an hour later levelled the scores.

The Rabbitohs looked they would score a shock win when Germaine Paulsen crossed in the 68th minute but McConnell's heroics got North Queensland home.

Livewire Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen suffered a recurrence of a painful ankle injury early in the second half but managed to return in the game's dying stages.

North Queensland skipper Travis Norton said the Cowboys - missing four State of Origin players - could build on the win, as well as next weekend's bye, in the build up to the business end of the year.

The Cowboys were without the services of NSW coach Graham Murray and star players Johnathan Thurston, Luke O'Donnell, Carl Webb and Josh Hannay against the Rabbitohs.

"Every player talks about it every year that a new competition starts (after the State of Origin period) and we've got the bye next weekend so it is like a new start for us," Norton said.

"We'll have to focus and work towards getting us a spot in the (top) eight."

Souths coach Shaun McRae said he was proud of the way his side responded from last week's "humiliation" against the Warriors.

"It was a tremendous response to last week's humiliation and in the space of seven days we've seen the two kinds of emotions in losing," he said.

"There was one last week when we were absolutely embarrassed and humiliated and the one tonight where we really felt we should have won the football game."

The Rabbitohs committed 16 errors to North Queensland's 17 but were guilty of 44 missed tackles to 15.

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